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Novartis to buy radiology drug specialist Mariana for $1 billion

FILE PHOTO: Swiss drugmaker Novartis' logo is seen in Stein

By Andrey Sychev and Ludwig Burger

(Reuters) - Novartis agreed to acquire U.S. radiopharmaceutical company Mariana Oncology for $1 billion upfront, boosting its portfolio of precision cancer treatments in development, the Swiss drug manufacturer said on Thursday.

The deal includes up to $750 million of further payments upon achieving certain milestones, it added.

Mariana Oncology is working on novel radioligand cancer therapies (RLTs) that have not yet been tested on humans.

"The transaction bolsters the Novartis RLT pipeline and expands the company’s research infrastructure and clinical supply capabilities," Novartis said in a statement.

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Radioligand therapy, based on cell-killing radioactive particles that are attached to tumour-seeking molecules, is one of three technologies that Novartis' development efforts are focused on, apart from cell and gene therapy as well as RNA.

The Swiss group's radioligand drugs include Pluvicto against prostate cancer and Lutathera against a rare group of gastrointestinal tumours.

Novartis has been cutting jobs and costs, and spun off its generic drugs business Sandoz last year, part of a focus on fewer therapeutic areas and geographic markets.

In February, it struck a deal to buy German cancer drug developer MorphoSys for 2.7 billion euros ($2.89 billion).

($1 = 0.9348 euros)

(Additional reporting by Paul Arnold,; editing by Matthias Williams and Elaine Hardcastle)