Private equity firm boosts development of antibody-drug conjugates.
Celtic Therapeutics is committing to the development of antibody-drug conjugates with the launch of Switzerland-based ADC Therapeutics. ADC Therapeutics is starting out with a pipeline of ten proprietary ADC oncology development programs, targeting multiple major cancers, including prostate, renal, breast, lung and blood cancers and an initial budget of $50 million.
Antibody-drug conjugates are antibodies that are married to a small molecular drug with a linker that releases the drug once it is delivered directly to cancer cells. The technology has created excitement because its ability to enable the use of cancer drugs otherwise deemed too toxic to deliver systematically by pairing them with antibodies to turn them into targeted therapies. Seattle Genetics’ antibody-drug conjugate therapy Adcetris was approved in August 2011 to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a rare lymphoma known as systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma. It is the only antibody-drug conjugate currently marketed in the United States.
“ADCs have strong potential to address the global need for markedly better cancer therapies with greater specificity and reduced side effects,” says Peter Corr, co-founder and managing general partner of Celtic, a global private equity firm that acquires promising drug candidates that it develops to proof of concept and beyond and then partners with major pharmaceutical companies for further development and commercialization.
“Now is the time to move ADCs to center-stage in cancer drug development,” says Corr. “In forming ADC Therapeutics we have created a company targeting a broad range of antigens specific to different tumor types that are ideal targets for ADC therapies, coupled with the drug development capabilities to bring ADCs into the clinic rapidly and cost-effectively.”
ADC will focus on driving its ten initial programs through preclinical development over the next year and will move the first of these into clinical development within two years. It plans to seek development and marketing partners after mid-stage proof of concept studies, which it hopes to achieve in several programs within three to five years.
Celtic Therapeutics will be the majority owner of ADC Therapeutics, along with some of the co-founders of UK-based Spirogen, which Celtic also owns. Spirogen develops the chemotherapeutic payloads, or warheads, and linker chemistries for the antibody-drug conjugates. Cancer Research Technology, the commercialization and development arm of Cancer Research UK is also a shareholder in ADC Therapeutics.
“We believe that ADCs will represent a significant medical breakthrough in cancer therapy over the coming decade,” says Stephen Evans-Freke, co-founder and managing general partner of Celtic Therapeutics. “We anticipate investment of up to $50M into ADC Therapeutics to achieve clinical proof of concept in 2 to 3 lead oncology programs. We are committed to fully fund ADC Therapeutics and will raise additional capital if warranted.”
By MARIE DAGHLIAN