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ADC Bio open to antibody drug conjugate collaborations and CMO takovers

By Gareth Macdonald , 21-Jan-2013

ADC invests in production tech
ADC invests in production tech

ADC Biotechnology has secured funding to take its cost-cutting antibody drug conjugate (ADC) tech to market and says pharma demand will drive partnerships and maybe even attract CMO takeover bids.

Last week St. Asaph, North Wales-based ADC announced it would use £600,000 ($952,560) - provided by Finance Wales and private investors led by Acceleris - to further the development of its ‘lock-release’ production technology.

CEO Charlie Johnson told Outsourcing-pharma.com that: “The funding will enable the necessary scale-up of a prototype process to demonstrate the key efficiencies of solid phase processing for commercial manufacture of ADCs.”

Unlike existing methods in which conjugation is carried out in solution at high reagent concentration, ADC’s approach is to bind the drug to the targeting antibody while it is attached to a solid surface, eliminating costly and time consuming processing steps and better protecting the molecule.

The plan – according to Johnson – is to provide this technology to Pharma customers both as a contract manufacturing organisation (CMO) and in collaboration with other contractors capable of current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) quality production.

The first example of partnership in this area is with Swiss based Carbogen Amcis [signed last September]” he said, adding that “we expect a further US based partnerships to be announced in due course.”

ADC demand

The business opportunities presented by ADC production has attracted a number of CMOs in recent months with companies like Novasep , Piramal and Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies all investing in manufacturing capacity.

Market leader Lonza has also been increasing its ADC efforts. Earlier this month the Swiss CMO announced that it plans to double ADC production capacity at its plant in Visp as part of an effort to improve profitability.

All the firms involved cited growing drugmaker demand as drivers for the investment but, while he acknowledged this trend, Johnson suggested that smaller CMOs like ADC may be better placed than their larger rivals to meet customer requirements.

Existing suppliers need to focus on feeding their GMP assets, which carry significant overheads and need to be occupied with clinical phase projects to maintain profitability. ADC Bio is able to fill the requirements of drug innovators at the earlier phases of development and then extend its offering into GMP through its carefully selected CMO partners.”

CMO takeover

With this in mind, we asked if ADC would ever consider a takeover by a larger CMO. And it seems it would according to Johnson, who cited limited market capacity and desire for efficiency as potential drivers of such a deal.

Consider trastuzumab emtansine [being developed by Genentech]. If it only cannibalises 30 per cent of the herceptin market that would equate to around 600Kg p.a. Put that into the context of the largest batch size currently on offer (2.5 Kg) it's easy to see that capacity quickly becomes swamped!”

“Then consider a drug innovator taking manufacture of a product like that in-house, they will I'm sure be very interested in efficient manufacturing technologies. So in this respect ADC Bio envisages that it could be bought by either a CMO specialist or a drug innovator with manufacturing in mind.”

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