ADC Therapeutics, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Adagene, a clinical stage biotech company based in Suzhou, China and San Francisco, USA, have entered into a discovery collaboration and license agreement.

The agreement allows ADC Therapeutics to use Adagene’s SAFEbody™ technology to generate a masked antibody that will be combined with ADC Therapeutics’ highly potent pyrrolobenzodiazepine (PBD)-based cytotoxic payload technology for the development of a novel antibody-drug conjugates against a solid tumor target.

SAFEbody technology
Adagene has developed a proprietary SAFEbody technology to produce masked antibodies that are activated to bind to an antigen in the tumor microenvironment by factors present in tumor tissues but not in healthy tissues. This enables enhanced specificity for targeting of an ADC and minimizes off-target toxicity on healthy cells, potentially enhancing the therapeutic index of the ADC.

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“The SAFEbody technology requires specific conditions within the tumor microenvironment to unleash the ADC’s full therapeutic potential,” said Patrick van Berkel, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at ADC Therapeutics.

“Combining a SAFEbody with highly potent PBD-based payloads will allow us to develop potent new tumor-specific ADCs that depend on the unique conditions in the local tumor microenvironment for full activation,” he added.

Exclusive targets
ADC Therapeutics has entered into the agreement with Adagene for one exclusive target, with the option to leverage SAFEbody technology for one additional exclusive target.

Both potential programs will focus on targets in which healthy tissue expression does not permit development of ADCs incorporating traditional antibodies.

Research funding
Under the terms of the agreement, Adagene will receive research funding for the discovery phase. Upon success of the discovery collaboration, Adagene will receive an upfront payment, development and commercial milestone payments, and royalties on net sales. ADC Therapeutics has granted Adagene certain commercial rights for Greater China. No other financial terms were disclosed.

“Adagene’s innovative protein engineering ability enables us to tailor-make products to limit their on-target off-tumor toxicity,” noted Peter Luo, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Adagene.

Together with ADC Therapeutics’ experience in developing ADCs with highly potent PBD payloads, we have the potential to unlock new treatment options for patients with unmet medical needs.”

“[The] collaboration with Adagene allows us to work toward the next generation of masked ADCs,” said Chris Martin, Chief Executive Officer at ADC Therapeutics.

“As we continue evaluating our potent ADCs in ongoing clinical trials, we look forward to exploring how Adagene’s SAFEbody technology incorporated in our ADCs may enable us to further improve anti-tumor activity while minimizing side effects,” he added.

The agreement is expected to result in the develop of the next-generation masked antibody-drug conjugates with potential use across multiple tumor types.

Collaboration enables a renewed focus on targets in which healthy tissue expression precludes development of ADCs incorporating traditional antibodies.