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Private Equity Company Founds $50M Biologics Start-Up

Currency dice (MD4 Group/Flickr)Celtic Therapeutics, a private equity company in the U.S. and Europe, has started a new company to bring to market therapies based on antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) that bind to and kill cells with the targeted properties. The new company, known as ADC Therapeutics and based in Lausanne, Switzerland will have an initial investment of $50 million.

ADCs are a class of drugs with highly targeted antibodies designed to kill a specific type of cells, such as tumor cells. The antibodies in ADCs aim for and bind to receptors with specific characteristics called antigens on the surface of the cell. Once the binding take place, ADCs release the agents that kill those specific cells.

Because of their highly targeted nature, ADCs have the potential to deliver the effectiveness of traditional chemotherapy treatments, but with less harm to healthy cells elsewhere in the body and thus fewer damaging side effects. In August 2011, FDA approved an ADC therapy made by Seattle Genetics for lymphoma. Celtic says clinical trials of drug candidates by other companies show the potential of ADCs to treat other types of cancer, as well as other diseases.

Celtic Therapeutics — that specializes in financing life sciences enterprises — will take a majority stake in ADC Therapeutics, joined by co-founder Spirogen Ltd, a biotechnology company in London that develops ADC payloads, and Cancer Research Technology Ltd, also in the U.K. ADC Therapeutics, say the founders, will focus on 10 initial ADC therapies, aiming for the first clinical trials within two years. The company hopes in three to five years to achieve proof-of-concept of at least some of those therapies in phase 2 trials, and use those results to attract partners for commercial development and marketing.

Michael Forer, a partner in Celtic Therapeutics, will serve as CEO of ADC Therapeutics. Peter B. Corr and Stephen Evans-Freke, co-founders and managing general partners of Celtic Therapeutics will serve on the company’s board, with Christopher Martin, CEO of Spirogen. Oncology experts Samuel Broder and Barrie Ward will also serve on the ADC Therapeutics board. Broder is a former director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

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Image: MD4 Group/Flickr

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