Novartis Agrees to Acquire Mariana Oncology for $1 Billion, Gains Small Lung Cancer Candidate

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Mariana’s portfolio of radioligand therapies will strengthen Novartis’ radioligand therapy pipeline.

Novartis announced on May 2, 2024 an agreement to acquire Mariana Oncology, a Massachusetts-based preclinical stage biotechnology company focused on creating new radioligand therapies (RLTs) for cancers with high unmet patient need. Novartis will absorb a large portfolio of RLT programs that encompass a variety of solid tumor indications, such as breast, prostate, and lung cancer, that range from lead optimization to early development. A key development candidate is MC-339, an actinium-based RLT being tested in small lung cancer. This portfolio will serve to bolster Novartis’ RLT pipeline, expanding its research infrastructure and clinical supply capabilities and supporting its goals in oncology and RLT platform innovation. Under the agreement, Novartis will pay $1 billion upfront, with the potential addition of $750 million in payments as certain pre-specified milestones are completed.

RLTs are a precision medicine that combines a tumor-targeting molecule (ligand) with a therapeutic radioisotope (a radioactive particle). RLTs will bind to specific receptors in the surface of certain types of tumors. Once they have bound to the target cell, emissions from the therapeutic radioisotope damage DNA, which can slow cell growth and replication and possibly trigger cell death. This approach allows radiation delivery to the tumor while keeping damage to surrounding cells to a minimum, according to Novartis (1).

“The acquisition of Mariana Oncology reflects our commitment to radioligand therapy as one of our company’s key technology platforms and strengthens our leadership in this field,” said Fiona Marshall, president of Biomedical Research at Novartis, in a press release (1). “We are excited to work with the Mariana team to bring forward next-generation RLTs for patients living with cancer and together shape the future of RLT as a pillar for oncology treatment.”


As of the publication of this article, Novartis has two approved RLTS for select patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and certain types of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. There are several programs in or centering on the clinic in Novartis’ early and late pipeline, such as a range of studies and assets for prostate cancer and other preclinical and discovery programs working to identify future novel RLTs. The company is also researching new isotopes, new combinations with complementary mechanisms of action, and new disease areas for RLT.

One of Novartis’ radioligand therapies, Lutathera, was approved by FDA on Apr. 23, 2024, for pediatric patients with gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. As reported on (2), the treatment was approved for pediatric patients aged 12 years and older with somatostatin receptor-positive gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs), inclusive of foregut, midgut, and hindgut GEP-NETs. Novartis stated that Lutathera was the first therapy approved specifically for children with GEP-NETs.

“[We] are dedicated to building on our scientific leadership and expanding the breadth of these potentially transformative treatments to a broader range of cancer types,” said Shiva Malek, Global Head of Oncology for Biomedical Research at Novartis, in the press release. “This acquisition brings to Novartis phenomenal talent and new capabilities in RLT research that complement our wide-ranging internal efforts to explore novel isotopes, combinations, disease areas, and more.”


  1. Novartis. Novartis Enters Agreement to Acquire Mariana Oncology, Strengthening Radioligand Rherapy Pipeline. Press Release, May 2, 2024.
  2. Thomas, F, Novartis’ Radioligand Therapy Gains FDA Nod for Pediatric Patients., Apr. 24, 2024.