The investment was made via Samsung’s Life Science Fund, which is managed by Samsung Ventures and was jointly set up by the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) giant Samsung Biologics and Samsung C&T.
As part of the investment, Samsung and its life sciences affiliates will work with Araris in the development of its ADC pipeline, including in the evaluation and manufacturing of drug candidates.
Limitations in early ADCs
ADCs are typically made up of an antibody that is connected to a toxic payload such as an anti-cancer drug via a ‘linker’ molecule. This allows the cancer-seeking antibody to deliver its payload to the site of a tumor like a guided missile, while reducing harmful effects of the drug to healthy tissue.
Earlier generations of ADCs have a number of limitations, however. For example, they take a long time to develop and at a high cost. They can also clump together in the blood, reducing their therapeutic efficacy, or break apart before reaching the tumor, causing more side effects.
Araris is gunning to tackle these obstacles by attaching its linker and payload to a different site on the antibody than other ADCs, and without lengthy genetic engineering of the antibody. This lets the company use a strong peptide linker that it can chemically ‘tune’ to stop the ADC from clumping together in the blood.
“Araris has the potential to develop best-in-class ADC therapies, and we see room for collaboration in the manufacturing and development of new drugs,” stated John Rim, CEO of Samsung Biologics in a press release.
“We’re pleased to receive this support from Samsung, as well as the recognition of the potential of our linker-payload toolbox and conjugation technology in such a quickly growing ADC field,” added Philipp Spycher, CEO and co-founder of Araris Biotech. “We look forward to using these proceeds to further support our efforts in advancing our ADC candidates toward the clinic.”
Araris was spun off from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and ETH Zurich in 2019, and made headlines last year when it bagged a $24m investment co-led by 4BIO Capital and Pureos Bioventures.
The startup has a number of candidates in preclinical development, including an ADC against the tumor-associated antigen Nectin-4 and another ADC that carries a chemotherapy drug called a topoisomerase 1 inhibitor as a payload.
ADCs trend gains momentum
ADCs are becoming a major trend in biotech and pharmaceutical circles as they form the basis of major investments and M&A deals. One standout example was the takeover of ADC specialist Seagen by Pfizer in March 2023 for $43 billion. Other ADC startups that have recently bagged major investment rounds include Pheon Therapeutics, Mablink Bioscience and Adcendo.
In the last few months, Samsung Group had made it clear its intentions to follow the ADC trend. Rim had stated earlier this year at J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that the company would branch out into ADCs and cell and gene therapy.
Previous investments by Samsung’s Life Science Fund have gone to the biotech firm Jaguar Gene Therapy and Senda Biosciences, which is deploying a mix of messenger RNA and nanoparticles to device programmable therapies.