Sorrento Therapeutics will use its linking technology to combine chemotherapeutic agents with Morphotek antibodies in order to generate and develop antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), in a deal that could net Sorrento up to $50 million tied to unspecified milestones.

The deal, disclosed today by Sorrento subsidiary Concortis Biosystems, which developed the technology being used by Sorrento, is the second deal in as many days involving ADCs, which hold promise as a cancer-fighting class following approvals and successful launches in recent years for Adcentris® and Kadcyla®.

Sorrento says the ADC technology it will apply is a next-generation version that uses next-generation ADCs using its own C-lock® and K-lock® conjugation technologies.

K-lock is designed to allow for consistent site-specific conjugation of the drug, thus offering the potential for improved safety and efficacy profiles in therapeutics. C-lock technology is intended to structurally stabilize the ADC, thereby preventing the drug payload from being released prematurely and setting off toxicity and off-target effects.

Both technologies allow for precise, site-specific conjugation of toxins to the antibody, as well as improved stability and potency of the ADC, according to the company.

Sorrento also has its own portfolio of toxins that can be linked to a targeting antibody. These toxins are new chemical entities that kill tumor cells by using a variety of distinct mechanisms of action.

In preclinical models, the potency of a toxin in Sorrento’s portfolio showed higher potency than DM1, the toxin used in Kadcyla. Sorrento says its lead ADC program targets VEGFR2 and is expected to reach the clinic in 2016.

Sorrento says the ADC technology holds a competitive advantage over those of rival companies: Because it owns all of the required components—including antibodies, conjugation chemistry and potent drug payloads—the company can create ADCs free of royalties or milestone fees.

That advantage represents “a distinct and unique advantage” for both internal ADC development as well as partnerships, Sorrento added.

Morphotek has developed a pipeline of preclinical and clinical stage monoclonal antibodies for cancer as well as inflammation and infectious diseases, using its Morphodoma and Libradoma platform technologies

“Working with Sorrento's team and its next generation ADC technology platform, we hope to utilize the full potential of our Morphotek antibody by developing agents that may have an enhanced efficacy and safety profile,” said Nicholas Nicolaides, President and CEO at Morphotek.

Yesterday, Mersana Therapeutics and Merck KGaA’s EMD Serono subsidiary said they will team up to use Mersana’s Fleximer® technology to to generate ADCs for multiple undisclosed targets. That deal could net Mersana up to $792 million in upfront and milestone payments, plus royalties.

Last year, Genentech, a Member of the Roche Group, launched Kadcyla (ado-trastuzumab emtansine) for patients with HER2-positive, metastatic breast cancer who previously received trastuzumab and a taxane, separately or in combination. Kadcyla is a HER2-targeted antibody and microtubule inhibitor conjugate.

And in 2011, the FDA approved Seattle Genetics’ Adcentris (brentuximab vedotin) as a first-in-class ADC indicated for Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and a rare lymphoma known as systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) under the agency’s accelerated approval program. Adcetris, which is directed to CD30-expressing cells, was developed with Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, which has worldwide exclusive rights except in the U.S. and Canada, which are held by Seattle Genetics.

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