Company will develop therapeutics based on Spirogen’s cytotoxic PBD warheads.

Private equity firm Celtic Therapeutics Management is ploughing $50 million into the launch of a Switzerland-based firm, ADC Therapeutics, focused on developing antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). The new business will start out with a portfolio of 10 oncology ADC development programs.

Celtic is the majority of owner of ADC, together with certain co-founders of U.K. firm Spirogen, an ADC technology platform company that is also majority owned by Celtic. Spirogen is developing a new class of cytotoxic DNA minor groove-binding pyrrolobenzodiazepine (PBD) therapeutics against cancer. The firm’s lead candidate SG2000 is a PBD dimer in Phase II clinical trials, but Spirogen is also developing ADC candidates based on the PBD technology.

ADC Therapeutics’ initial 10 therapeutic programs will aim to develop PBD-based ADCs against well-validated, cancer-specific cell surface receptor targets, using well-characterized monoclonal antibodies. The firm aims to carry the programs through clinical development over the next year, and initiate the first into clinical development within two years. Development and marketing partners will be sought after Phase II proof of concept has been achieved.

Celtic anticipates that investing up to $50 million in ADC will allow the firm to achieve clinical proof of concept for two to three lead oncology programs. “We believe that ADCs will represent a significant medical breakthrough in cancer therapy over the coming decade, and that Spirogen’s PBDs constitute ‘best-in-class’ ADC warheads,” comments Stephen Evans-Freke, co-founder and managing general partner of Celtic Therapeutics. “We are committed to fully fund ADC Therapeutics and will raise additional capital if warranted.”

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