UK biotech Glythera has announced the launch of a £1 million Innovate UK grant-funded project to develop next-generation antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) for difficult-to-treat tumours.

ADC technology basically links a monoclonal antibody with a ‘payload’ of deadly medicine for release inside the targeted cell, the idea being that such targeted delivery will boost effectiveness of treatment while preventing healthy tissues from being harmed.

According to Glythera, ADCs generated via its PermaLink platform have the potential to improve clinical utility through their significantly enhanced conjugation stability, which results in an improved therapeutic index and overall tumour response.

The project aims to develop a portfolio of PermaLink-based ADCs by combining novel high-potency toxins with a series of ADC-viable, tumour-specific antibodies, selected according to pre-defined criteria and specifically focused towards antigens that are over-expressed in difficult-to-treat cancers.

The data generated from in vitro and in vivo studies of these conjugates will then be used to prioritise the most promising candidates for preclinical development programmes. Glythera said it intends to identify its first clinical candidate for ‘first-in-man studies’ in 2019.

“Glythera is poised to bring a new generation of oncology focused therapies to the clinic. The funding by Innovate UK will help us identify novel antibody-drug conjugates for the potential treatment of a variety of cancers that are associated with high relapse rates to current treatment,” said chief executive Dr Dave Simpson.

“With Innovate UK’s support, we aim to build a portfolio of much-needed, safe treatments to improve the lives of patients living with these devastating cancers.”

Glythera has partnered with contract research group Covance for the project.