A team from Cravath Swaine & Moore is advising Novartis on its US$2.1 billion acquisition of US cancer treatment developer Endocyte.

The Swiss drugmaker announced the deal, which will see it purchase all outstanding shares of Indiana-based Endocyte, on 18 October.

Novartis has taken particular interest in Endocyte’s investigational prostate cancer drug 177Lu-PSMA-61, which is currently the subject of Phase III global clinical trials for use as a radioligand therapy (RLT) for the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, having shown “promising Phase II data” according to Novartis.

The deal, which Novartis said it expects to close in the first half of 2019, is the latest move the Swiss company has made to add to its core pharmaceuticals pipeline following the sale of its share in a consumer healthcare joint venture with GSK in March and its acquisition of gene therapy company AveXis in April.

As well as adding a “potential near-term product launch” to its pipeline, Novartis said the Endocyte buyout would allow it to look into adapting 177Lu-PSMA-617 to the treatment of other strains of prostate cancer. Endocyte has also developed 225Ac-PSMA-617 and other RLTs, which use radioactive biochemical substances to help with research and imaging of metastasised diseases.

The deal “builds on our growing capability in radiopharmaceuticals, which is expected to be an increasingly important treatment option for patients and a key growth driver for our business,” Liz Barrett, Novartis’ Oncology CEO, said in a statement.

“We are thrilled that Novartis recognises the potential for Lu-PSMA-617,” said Mike Sherman, Endocyte CEO. “The global reach and expertise of Novartis in developing and commercialising RLTs will be critical in efforts for patients to benefit from these therapies as quickly as possible.”

The acquisition is being guided by lawyers from Cravath Swaine & Moore on Novartis’ side and Faegre Baker Daniels for Endocyte.

The former’s team was led by partners GJ Ligelis and head of Cravath’s corporate department and leader of its international practice Mark Greene. Greene previously advised Novartis on its 2011 acquisition of diagnostics lab services firm Genoptix, most of which it resold last year, retaining control of its biopharma business under the new name Navigate BioPharma Services. Greene also counselled Novartis on the US$5.5 billion sale of its baby food brand Gerber to Nestlé in 2007.

Faegre’s team was led by partners Daniel Boeglin – who previously advised Endocyte in its acquisition of a personalised cancer treatment from German chemicals company ABX – alongside partners Jonathan Zimmerman and Jonathan Nyren.