ADCs harness the precision of monoclonal antibodies and the potency of cytotoxic drugs to target and eliminate cancer cells.
Their high specificity makes ADCs important in combating cancer, as evidenced by the increasing number of ADC drugs marketed over the past two decades, alongside promising candidates advancing into late-stage clinical trials.
According to GlobalData, there were 150 ADC licensing agreements between 2018-2023, with 59 deals in preclinical stage.
Oncology was the top therapy for ADCs over the past five years with a peak at 36 agreements in 2022. During the first half of 2023, of the 19 disclosed licensing agreement deals, nine were in the preclinical stage of development, with a total deal value of $2.3 billion.
Ophelia Chan, business fundamentals analyst at GlobalData, said: “Biopharmaceutical companies are engaging in collaborative efforts for ADC drug development, and although they are becoming increasingly attractive to pharma giants within the industry, they still face certain challenges.”
Major ADC drugmaker Seagen also secured multiple licensing agreements with leading pharma companies, including Merck, Sanofi, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and AbbVie.
Seagen’s advanced ADC portfolio comprises five marketed drugs: Adcetris, Aidexi, Padcev, Tivdak, and Tukysa.
Notably, the company’s collaboration with RemeGen in 2021 led to a billion-dollar deal worth up to $2.6 billion for the HER-2-targeted ADC, disitamab vedotin (Aidexi), now available on the market.
Furthermore, in January 2023, the Netherlands-headquartered biotech Synaffix signed a licensing deal with Amgen worth up to $2 billion to provide access to its ADC technologies and commercial licenses for four preclinical oncology candidates.
Chan adds: “The companies’ collaboration currently stands as the biggest preclinical ADC licensing deal of the year.”
In March 2023, Pfizer also entered the ADC field with a $43 billion acquisition of Seagen.
Chan concludes: “Biopharmaceutical companies are building on their existing success and advancing towards the development of next-generation ADCs. Advancements in ADCs could potentially spur biosimilar competition; however, the complex design of ADCs presents a greater challenge for rivals. The lack of biosimilar competitors could provide ADC drugmakers with more pricing flexibility and foster new collaborations with top players in the biopharmaceutical industry.”