Toronto-based AvidBiologics Inc,  a privately held Canadian biotech company and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) are collaborating on the development of antibody-drug conjugates or ADCs, one of the most promising advances in the fight against cancer. Antibody-drug conjugates combine the targeting attributes of antibodies with the cancer destroying properties of drugs that are toxic to cells. Unlike chemotherapy, antibody-drug conjugates specifically seek and destroy cancer cells, with minimal impact on healthy cells.

Recently signed research and licensing agreements enable both organizations to continue developing a series of antibody-drug conjugates targeting breast, lung, and head-and-neck cancers. NRC’s novel antigens are highly expressed by multiple cancers, exhibit tumor-restricted expression, and are rapidly internalized. These characteristics make these antigens ideal for targeting with ADCs.

Since the start of their joint project in early 2013, NRC’s antibody expertise has helped advance AvidBiologics’ lead treatment more rapidly.

Under the terms of the original partnership agreement, the NRC produced and tested three novel, tumor-specific antibodies, which were generated as part of the NRC’s integrated therapeutic antibody development (ITAD) initiative, for use as ADCs. The ITAD program, which is led by Maureen O’Connor-McCourt, Senior Research Officer within the Human Health Therapeutics research area, integrates NRC’s chain of cutting edge genomic, proteomic and bioinformatics technology platforms to discover and develop novel therapeutic targets and antibodies.

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By late September 2014, the available data helped convince AvidBiologics’s investors to close a new round of financing. AvidBiologics, which was founded in 2011 as the result of a spin-out from YM BioSciences Inc., will now be able to complete confirmatory preclinical testing for its lead candidate, AVID100, in anticipation of its initial clinical trial in 2015, bringing this promising new treatment several steps closer to patients.

AVID100, which is currently undergoing IND-enabling studies, is focused on a validated and well-characterized cancer target, which simplifies development and decreases technological risk.

The National Research Council of Canada also developed a custom cell line needed to produce the antibody and is optimizing the parameters for its production. The goal is to transfer the cell line and bioprocess to a Canadian contract manufacturing organization to produce the clinical trial material.

Government Mandate
NRC’s research and development of new cancer treatments is aligned with the Government of Canada’s commitment to ensuring the health of Canadians. The collaboration with Avid exemplifies how NRC is helping industry progress research from the lab to the marketplace. Commenting on NRC’s role, Roman Szumski, Vice-President of Life Sciences at the National Research Council of Canada, noted: “Our work with leading Canadian biotech companies such as AvidBiologics shows how the National Research Council’s world-class expertise can help in the fight against cancer and improve the lives of Canadians.”

From discovery to development
“The work performed by NRC is crucial to assembling the data package needed for clinical trials. We are privileged to be able to continue the rapid development of our lead candidate while advancing the other candidates in the pipeline in collaboration with the NRC. We thank the NRC and all of our partners for their support as AvidBiologics transitions from a discovery-stage to a development-stage company,” noted Ilia A. Tikhomirov, President and CEO of AvidBiologics.

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