Adagene, a Suzhou (China) and San Francisco, California, based clinical-stage biotech company developing novel antibody discovery and engineering technologies has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Tanabe Research Laboratories (San Diego, USA), a subsidiary of Japan-based Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation.

Tanabe uses a cutting-edge research and development approach to advance novel biologics for the treatment of cancer and hematological malignancies as well as other diseases. The company’s pipeline, which primarily focuses on antibody-drug conjugates, includes potential therapies that target specific molecules on cancer cells and modulate cancer cell function in ways that hold promise to improve human health

Computational biology
Using computational biology combined with artificial intelligence to design novel antibodies that address unmet patient needs, Adagene has developed a proprietary Dynamic Precision Library Platform (DPL) and unique SAFEbody technology to develop immuno-oncology antibodies against novel epitopes that give unique product profiles that have potential to succeed where other have failed. The company is also developing a third-generation technology to enhance the therapeutic window for antibodies.

Under the strategic partnership, Tanabe Research Laboratories applies Adagene’s SAFEbody platform to generate a masked antibody that will be paired with a cytotoxic payload developed by Tanabe, to create an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) against a solid tumor target.

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Financial terms and specific target identification were not disclosed.

SAFEbody technology
Adagene’s SAFEbody™ technology platform is used for the discovery and development of masked antibodies. These masked antibodies are activated by factors present in the tumor microenvironment but not in healthy tissues. This allows for the tumor-specific targeting of antibodies with minimized on-target toxicity in healthy tissues, unleashing the full therapeutic potential of ADC. The tumor-specific targeting technology is expected to safely enhance the therapeutic index of the ADC delivery of the cytotoxic payload. With this approach, scientists aim to generate highly specific therapeutics.

Peter (Peizhi) Luo, Ph.D. is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Adagene, where he focuses on studying the fundamental mechanisms of protein folding and design principle, using computational and experimental approaches. Photo courtesy: © 2017 – 2020 Adagene.

Adagene has also developed POWERbody™ which includes a combination of SAFEbody antibodies within ADCs. This approach aims to minimize the toxicity frequently associated with ADCs when treating solid tumors.

“We look forward to combining our SAFEbody™ technology with Tanabe Research Laboratories’ ADC technologies to develop a treatment for a solid tumor target,” said Peter Luo, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Adagene.

“[Our] precision protein engineering capabilities enable us to create highly masked antibodies while retaining their efficacy. Traditional ADC technologies are limited in most solid tumor targets because toxicity was observed at optimal efficacious doses. Our new modality, POWERbody™, combining SAFEbody™ with ADCs, aims to deliver safe and potent therapies toward a wide range of targets.”

In 2019 Adagene signed development agreements with Swiss-based ADC Therapeutics and Bristol Myers Squibb (Celgene).

Combining Adagene’s SAFEbody with ADC Therapeutics’ class of highly potent pyrrolobenzodiazepine (PBD)-based payloads is expected to yield potent new tumor-specific ADCs that depend on the unique conditions in the local tumor microenvironment for full activation. This innovative protein engineering approach enables researchers to tailor-make products with limited on-target off-tumor toxicity.

The agreement with Bristol Myers Squibb involved a multi-target platform evaluation, using Adagene’s Dynamic Precision Library, to discover antibodies against targets chosen by Bristol Myers Squibb.

Adagene has raised U.S. $ 69 million via a Series D financing round in January 2020, bringing the total investments in the company to over US$ 155 million since 2014. Investors include F-Prime, Eight Roads, WuXi AppTec, and others.

Adagene pipeline includes a number of antibody-based products, including the company’s lead product ADG106, a CD137-targeted monoclonal IgG4 antibody in Phase I clinical studies in tic advanced or metastatic solid tumors and hematological malignancies, including non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in China and the US, and ADG116, a CTLA-4 monoclonal antibody approved to enter clinical trials in the United States later this year.

Clinical trials
Study of CD137 Agonist ADG106 With Advanced or Metastatic Solid Tumors and/or Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma – NCT03707093
Study of ADG106 With Advanced or Metastatic Solid Tumors and/or Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma – NCT03802955


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