Cancer Research Technology and ADC Therapeutics join forces on drug conjugates

Cancer Research Technology (CRT)

Cancer Research Technology (CRT), the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK, and Switzerland-based ADC Therapeutics Sarl (ADCT) announce today that they have signed agreements to develop cancer treatments called Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs) using CRT antibodies and peptides, and ADCT’s ‘warhead’ and linker chemistries.

ADCs are an exciting and clinically important class of oncology drugs as they combine the specificity of antibodies with novel ‘warhead’ chemistries.  The antibody component selectively targets the cancer cells to deliver tumour-destroying chemicals which are internalised into the cancer cell while avoiding damage to healthy tissue. Once inside the cancer cell, the linker degrades and the active toxin is released, binding to the cell’s DNA and killing the cancer cell. ADCT’s toxic chemicals interact with DNA without disrupting the double helix structure which avoids triggering DNA repair processes – with the prospect that this will prevent drug resistance.  

ADCT’s warheads are based on proprietary pyrrolobenzodiazepines (PBDs) technology developed by London-based Spirogen Limited. In March 2012, ADCT and Spirogen announced their partnership to develop proprietary ADC products. CRT holds the intellectual property (IP) rights to a range of tumour-targeting agents developed by Cancer Research UK scientists.

ADCT will initially fund preclinical studies for the new ADCs in a range of cancer models in laboratories at Queen Mary, University of London; UCL, (University College London) and King’s College London.  Deal terms are not disclosed, nor the cancer targets.  

Dr Chris Martin, ADCT’s collaboration manager and CEO of Spirogen Limited, said: “We are very excited to see our potent PBD-based warheads combined with CRT’s leading tumour-targeting antibodies and peptides. Together we are committed to faster and more efficient drug development, and have already commenced our preclinical work for these exciting programs.  We believe this provides a very promising and rapid route to develop novel ADCs for cancer therapy and are very much looking forward to working in partnership with CRT.”

Dr Phil L’Huillier, CRT’s director of business management, said: “There’s very promising evidence that ADCs could be an important new way to treat cancer.  This is a particularly exciting time in this field, following the recent approval by the FDA for the first use of an ADC to treat lymphoma.  This unique collaboration marries ADCT’s targeted portfolio with CRT’s access to world-class cancer research supported by £334 million each year. We hope the collaboration will identify a range of ADCs that can be taken forward for development into innovative new ways to treat cancer and save lives.”

ENDS

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Notes to Editor

ADCT was recently established with $50m (£32M) of funding from Celtic Therapeutics management, a private equity firm, to develop a pipeline of up to 10 new therapies based on ADCs.  

One of the antibodies is co-owned by University of Copenhagen.