London: Novartis AG agreed to buy US drugmaker Endocyte Inc. for $2.1 billion, snapping up a potential blockbuster therapy for prostate cancer and helping to fill out a treatment area targeted by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant.

Novartis will pay $24 a share for Endocyte, 54% more than its closing price Wednesday of $15.56, the Basel-based company said Thursday. Endocyte makes radioactive drugs coupled with targeting molecules to deliver treatments to tumors.

The approach is one of three areas, along with cell and gene therapies, where the company wants to grow, according to Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan, who said he still hasn’t finished.

“We continue to be interested in bolt-on acquisitions that strengthen us in our key therapeutic areas or help us build out these three platforms," Narasimhan told reporters on a call.

Endocyte’s prostate cancer therapy, known as Lu-PSMA-617, has progressed to final-stage testing in men who have limited options for treatment, Novartis said. The medicine uses a small molecule to aim a radioactive cancer drug at a target, called PSMA, that’s found in high numbers on the surface of diseased cells, according to Endocyte.

Under Narasimhan, Novartis is assembling technologies to attack cancer on multiple fronts. The company last year agreed to buy Advanced Accelerator Applications SA for about $3.9 billion, getting a radiopharmaceutical company whose drugs are used to diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer. Novartis earlier this year announced the purchase of rare-disease drugmaker AveXis Inc. for $8.7 billion.

Endocyte will also add to Novartis’s efforts in CAR-T, the treatment technology that alters patients’ immune cells to aggressively attack cancers. The U.S. company has a research program looking at ways to use CAR-T to target multiple tumors and is currently investigating the therapy in people with a form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma.

Separately, Novartis raised the lower end of its forecast for sales growth for the year, saying that annual sales will rise by a mid-single-digit percentage. Novartis had said in July that it expected sales in 2018 to rise by a percentage in the low to mid single digits.

The shares rose 0.9% in early trading.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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