Investors pile onto ADCs in Tubulis’ €128 million Series B2

By Jonathan Smith

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/PMimages
Pic:getty/PMimages

Related tags ADC

A huge €128 million Series B2 round by German startup Tubulis indicates that the field of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) in oncology continues to capture investor imaginations.

The funding round was co-led by EQT Life Sciences and Nextech Invest. There was also participation from new US funds Frazier Life Sciences and Deep Track Capital in addition to Tubulis’ existing investors.

Tubulis plans to use the proceeds to fuel the progress of its pipeline to clinical development, with its first phase 1/2a clinical trial planned to launch this year. The startup will also use the funding to establish a US subsidiary and expand its ADC technology with the development of new payloads to provide more options in designing its cancer treatments.

"Our goal is to establish Tubulis as a global ADC leader as we transition into a clinical-stage company and harness the full power of ADCs to bring their therapeutic value to patients with solid tumors," said Dominik Schumacher, CEO and co-founder of Tubulis.

Tubulis’ most advanced preclinical-stage candidates include TUB-040, which targets tumor-antigen Napi2b – an established target in ovarian and lung cancer – and TUB-030, which seeks out a target called 5T4, which is overexpressed in a wide range of solid tumors.

The startup’s latest round takes place amid multiple big pharma buyouts of ADC developers such as Johnson & Johnson’s $2 billion acquisition of Ambrx and Eli Lilly's takeover of Mablink. Other recent deals that have been “driving momentum in the ADC space,” include Tubulis’ licensing agreement with Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer’s $43 billion acquisition of Seagen, and AbbVie’s $10.1 billion takeover of ImmunoGen, Schumacher told Biopharma Reporter​ in an email.

ADC​s consist of an antibody connected to an anti-cancer payload with a so-called ‘linker’ molecule. This helps chemotherapy drugs to be delivered directly to tumor sites and cause fewer off-target effects in healthy tissue than the payload alone.

There are more than ten​ ADCs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of solid tumors and blood cancers, and many have distinct targets including CD22, HER2 and nectin4. However, limitations to the technology including premature payload loss and a lack of choice of drug designs make it difficult to develop new ADC treatments, according to Tubulis’ website​.

To tackle these obstacles, Tubulis is developing technologies that give the company “the full flexibility to tailor each component of the ADC to a specific indication thereby delivering the true value of ADCs by extending patient benefit and improving quality of life,” Schumacher told us.

One of Tubulis’ tools is its P5 conjugation platform, which is designed to make highly stable ADCs that allow for a wide range of different drug designs tailored to a cancer type. Another is the Tubutecan payload platform, which is intended to attach payloads to the ADC more stably than current drugs, while the third, the Tub-tag platform, is designed to make stable ADCs that can easily attach payloads to specific sites on the molecule. 

“ADCs technologies have now taken a significant step forward and the time is right for the approach,” Schumacher told us. “We have all the tools now to bring the true therapeutic value to cancer patients.”

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