Avacta and ADC Theraputics have announced a collaboration and option agreement in order to focus on developing potent Affimer-drug conjugates.

Avacta, the biotechnology company developing novel cancer immunotherapies, will offer up its Affimer platform to develop Affimer-drug conjugates combining the company’s technology with ADC Therapeutics’ pyrrolobenzodiazepine (PBD)-based warhead and linker technologies.

The companies revealed that as part of the multi-target collaboration, Avacta will generate and optimise Affimer binders against three undisclosed cancer targets and provide these to ADC Therapeutics to target its proprietary cytotoxic warheads (PBDs) to the site of the tumour.

ADC Therapeutics will then carry out pre-clinical research and development programmes to evaluate each of the Affimer-drug conjugates with a view to generating clinical candidates.

The commercial agreement between the two companies also provides ADC Therapeutics with options, on a target by target basis, to obtain exclusive licenses to the Affimer proteins for clinical development and commercialisation.

ADC has confirmed that it will cover all Avacta’s costs during the collaboration, and upon ADC entering into each of the commercialisation licenses and successfully bringing new Affimer-drug conjugates to market, Avacta will receive option fees, development and commercialisation milestones, as well as a single-digit royalty on sales.

Dr Alastair Smith, chief executive officer of Avacta Group, said that he is “delighted to have established this collaboration with ADC Therapeutics to develop drug conjugates that harness the benefits of Affimer proteins to selectively and efficiently target ADC Therapeutics’ PBD drugs to the site of the tumour. We are very excited about the potential of this collaboration to develop breakthrough oncology treatments, and about its considerable commercial value to Avacta.”

“We look forward to working closely with the ADC Therapeutics team to generate new Affimer-drug conjugates and advance these promising cancer treatments into the clinic.”

The Affimer platform is an alternative to antibodies derived from a small human protein. Antibodies currently dominate markets worth in excess of $100bn and Affimer technology has been designed to address many of these negative performance issues, principally: the time taken, and the reliance on an animal’s immune response, to generate new antibodies; poor specificity in many cases; large size and cost.