San Diego’s Antibody-Drug Conjugate Research Highlighted at #WorldADC Meeting in October

San Diego was host to the World Antibody Drug Conjugate (ADC) Meeting and Awards October 26-29th 2014. ADCs are an exciting new class of oncology therapeutics utilizing monoclonal antibodies conjugated to cytotoxic drugs, resulting in highly targeted killing of cancer cells. World ADC Meeting organizers Hanson Wade held the meeting in San Diego due to California’s growing significance in the development of this exciting new class of therapeutics. More than a quarter of the World ADC attendees were from California, and 11 of the state’s companies presented. While only a handful of San Diego companies spoke at the meeting, many were present to network and learn. Much of the the ADC work being done in San Diego is at the discovery stage, and presumably difficult to present publicly.

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is an academic powerhouse in developing ADC technologies. Publications abound from at least three TSRI labs—Peter Schultz, Christoph Rader (Scripps Florida), and the late Carlos Barbas. Dr. James Patterson, from Barbas’ lab, presented a talk titled “A Chemical Engineering Approach to Improving the Stability of Site-Specific Antibody Conjugates” on Monday. Patterson discussed the inherent heterogeneity of the traditional process of conjugating small molecule drugs to antibodies, which is also illustrated nicely in this video from Waters Corporation which was shown at the World ADC meeting. Barbas’ lab has pioneered a technique whereby “THIOMABS” are created which antibodies are engineered to conjugate drugs in a single location. The resulting, more homogeneous ADCs are more efficacious because they are more stable in the bloodstream. The Barbas lab is currently improving upon the conjugation process using fusion proteins and creating antibodies which can conjugate more than one drug.

The ADC advances made in academia are certainly translating to industry, as David Miao from San Diego’s Sorrento Therapeutics pointed out during his presentation Tuesday titled “Advancing Conventional ADCs to Multifunctional ADCs.” Sorrento acquired San Diego based Concortis Therapeutics in late 2013 and is leveraging their K-Lock and C-Lock conjugation technologies to create more stable and targeted ADCs. These technologies, along with those developed at Sorrento, are allowing the company to create multifunctional ADCs which can conjugate drug molecules dually as well as to be specific for more than one type of cancer cell. Miao presented impressive data in his presentation and Sorrento has 15 ADC projects in development. Miao predicts that at least one ADC will enter clinical trials in 2016.

San Diego companies in attendance included Celgene and Ambrx, with ADC program representatives Amgen and Agensys rounding out the some of the Southern California contingent. As with many areas of biotechnology, San Diego defers to San Francisco in further stage ADC development, with Genentech being the flagship representation at the meeting and for the industry. The South San Francisco-based company has the only ADC on the market, breast cancer therapy Kadcyla, and co-hosted the World ADC Awards that took place October 26th. That being said, World ADC 2015 will take place in San Diego again, surely owing partly to our fantastic October weather, but also because it is a great place to learn about emerging ADC technologies.

Disclaimer: Hanson Wade, the World ADC Meeting organizers, are a client of Comprendia, LLC, which is affiliated with the San Diego Biotechnology Network.