New York-based Vaccinex will work with Catalent Pharma Solutions to evaluate an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) against an undisclosed cancer target in various preclinical models. The project will then be moved into cell line and process development using Catalent’s GPEx engineering technology and its SMARTag conjugation platform.
“The ADC development work will be performed by the Catalent team in Emeryville, California, leveraging existing people and technology,” Mike Riley, VP of Catalent Biologics told this publication.
The SMARTag protein-modification and linker technology was acquired by the contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO) from Redwood Bioscience in 2014. Since then Catalent has inked ADC development deals with a number of biopharma firms, including a deal with Roche worth up to $600m.
According to the firm the platform uses natural post-translational modifications found in human cells to create ‘chemical handles’ at predetermined sites on protein molecules which can then be stably chemically conjugated to different payloads.
Overcoming aggregation issues
There are a number of conjugation firms involved in developing ADCs, but according to Wales, UK-based CDMO ADC Bio few are prepared for aggregation challenges associated with next-generation linker-payloads.
However, Riley told us Catalent’s tech addresses aggregation challenges in several ways:
“Firstly, SMARTag generates homogeneous site-specific ADCs with a consistent drug-antibody ratio. First generation ADCs were heterogenous mixtures including both over-conjugated and under-conjugated molecules. Over-conjugated molecules would have greater issues with aggregation, which we can eliminate with SMARTag.
“Secondly, our technology can precisely control where on the antibody the small molecule is conjugated, further helping to reduce the propensity of the ADC to aggregate.”