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New Firm Targets Drug Conjugates

Partners invest in start-up to develop antibody drug conjugates for oncology targets

by Ann M. Thayer
April 2, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 14

A Swiss company, ADC Therapeutics, has been formed to capitalize on the emerging field of antibody-drug conjugates. Because they contain a potent cytotoxic drug connected to a target-specific monoclonal antibody with a linker, ADCs avoid the side effects of traditional chemotherapies.

The company was created by private equity firm Celtic Therapeutics Management and Spirogen, a 2001 spin-off of University College London. With initial funding of $50 million, ADC Therapeutics will have 10 programs against multiple cancers. Celtic is majority owner of both Spirogen and the new firm.

“ADCs will represent a significant medical breakthrough in cancer therapy over the coming decade,” Celtic General Partner Stephen R. Evans-Freke asserts. “We are committed to fully fund ADC Therapeutics and will raise additional capital if warranted.”

The buzz around ADCs increased in August 2011, with FDA approval of Seattle Genetics’ Adcetris, the first major ADC on the market. Other ADCs in late-stage development include one from ImmunoGen and Genentech that is expected to go before regulators this year. In January 2011, Genentech set up a collaboration with Spirogen to develop yet another ADC.

Along with antibodies, ADCs rely on cytotoxins and linker chemistries. Spirogen has spent 10 years developing highly potent pyrrolobenzodiazepines and also claims to be a leader in linker chemistry.

ADC Therapeutics has validated cell-surface receptor targets and will use well-characterized antibodies against these antigens. It will conduct preclinical assessment over the next year and hopes to have an ADC candidate in clinical trials in two years. After completing Phase II proof-of-concept studies, it will look for development partners.


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