Biosimilar developer Celltrion and Mirrae Asset Group announced an investment of USD 47 million in UK-based antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) developer Iksuda Therapeutics, making them one of the largest shareholders Iksuda. The investment is a part of a joint venture capital fund worth USD 130 Mn by Celltrion and Mirrae Asset Financial Group to support the growth of start-ups in the biotechnology industry.
Iksuda’s ADC programs are targeted at tumours with high relapse rates and limited treatment options such as epithelial ovarian cancers, B-cell lymphomas, lung adenocarcinomas, triple-negative breast cancers, etc. The funding will support the advancement of Iksuda’s lead asset, IKS03, CD19-targeted ADC candidate for B-cell cancers, into first-in-class human trials expected to be initiated Q4 2021, post IND filing. Preclinical results on IKS03 have demonstrated best-in-class efficacy in vivo xenograft models compared with other in-clinic and marketed CD-19 therapies. Iksuda also plans to progress two other early-stage programs – IKS04 and IKS02 to IND filing.
Iksuda’s ADC programs leverage its proprietary novel PermaLink® platform and Protein Alkylating (ProAlk) tumor-activated payload platform, exclusively licensed from Göttingen University in October 2020. The combination of the two platform technologies promises, development of differentiated ADCs, with improved tumour killing and a better safety index.
With this investment, Celltrion aims to expand its oncology pipeline beyond its portfolio of biosimilars which include rituximab, bevacizumab, and trastuzumab. This is in continuation to one of the recent investments by Celltrion made into novel biologics, particularly ADCs. In 2019, Celltrion entered into a development-cum-manufacturing partnership with iProgen Biotech for development of upto 4 ADCs targeting various undisclosed oncology indications. Having established a robust pipeline of biosimilars and gaining substantial market share in ex-US markets with its ‘bio-better’ strategy, Celltrion is now aiming for biologic products promising higher value capture.
ADCs have been at the center of an industry-wide momentum for advanced oncology drugs – the previous year witnessed heightened industry traction towards ADCs, with several significant acquisitions and partnerships being forged, as discussed here in our Yearly Roundup for 2020.