$3.9bn deal follows European approval of Advanced Accelerator Applications’ first-in-class radionuclide drug Lutathera

Pharma major Novartis has agreed to buy radionuclide therapy specialist Advanced Accelerator Applications (AAA) in a deal that values the company at $3.9 billion (£3 billion).

The deal gives Novartis access to Lutathera (177Lu-dotatate), AAA’s treatment for certain kinds of cancer, which was approved in Europe in September. The drug comprises a metal-chelating ligand that directs a radionuclide payload to specific receptors associated with the tumour. When loaded with positron-emitting gadolinium it can be used as a diagnostic tracer for positron emission tomography, but in the case of Lutathera it is used to target a beta-emitting lutetium isotope to attack the tumour tissue. Novartis will also take on AAA’s pipeline of other radioligand therapies directed at other tumour types.

During its 3rd quarter financial results update, Novartis also confirmed plans to spin off its Alcon eyecare business, which it acquired from Nestle in 2010 for $50 billion. However, the move will not happen before 2019.