Can a new European biotech make an ADC better than Padcev? Investors are putting up almost $100M to find out
A new European biotech has put together a nearly $100 million Series A, and its lead program is going after a target recently validated by the FDA.
Emergence Therapeutics raised €87 million in its first big raise Tuesday, good for roughly $97.8 million, coming out of stealth with a plan to tackle antibody-drug conjugates. The first program up is setting its sights on nectin-4, the target for Astellas and Seagen’s Padcev drug, which gained full FDA approval for urothelial cancers this past summer.
CEO Jack Elands said the company got its start after working with researchers at the University of Marseille Cancer Research Center to develop the lead candidate.
“We started thinking about what we actually need to do in order to outperform Padcev, because we didn’t want to just blindly develop [a drug], we really wanted to develop something that was markedly better,” Elands told Endpoints News.
He added: “We’re now in a phase where we just have to execute rapidly and with high quality, and the ability to raise this Series A is going to enable us to do that.”
The program in question is known as ETx-22, and Emergence is pinning its high hopes here. By sharpening the message that researchers want to tackle nectin-4, Elands is all but declaring his company can develop a Padcev successor.
There are scant hard data to go on so far, as Emergence has only conducted preclinical work for the candidate to this point. The biotech is predicting, however, ETx-22 will prove less toxic than other nectin-4 ADCs, allowing for higher dosing and greater efficacy.
Elands highlighted a few reasons why he thinks ETx-22 could eventually prove successful down the line, saying preclinical data have shown the compound binds 10 times better to tumor nectin-4, its ADC linker is more stable than Padcev’s and it uses a toxin that is less toxic for the skin.
“We have very good reasons to believe that we can have a better therapeutic index,” Elands said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s no risk, because that would be foolish, but that the risk in the development process is relatively well controlled.”
Emergence is initially planning for studies in bladder and triple-negative breast cancer, two tumor types with high nectin-4 expression levels. But ETx-22 will also be studied in other solid tumors with medium and low nectin-4 expression, the company says, including ovarian, head and neck, and lung cancer.
Elands is looking at the second half of 2023 for when ETx-22 will hit the clinic, with first in-human data available by the end of 2025. That’s a long way to go, but Emergence will also be using some of the raise on other ADCs for solid tumors that still need more discovery work.
Coming from the Astellas and Seagen duo, Padcev won full FDA approval in July after first nabbing an accelerated OK back in 2019. The drug was originally greenlighted to treat advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer for patients who aren’t eligible for cisplatin chemo and is now available for second-line patients.
It’s an indication where the big checkpoint inhibitor blockbusters have had little effect on survival, potentially giving Padcev an opportunity to carve out a market. And if Emergence’s plan works out, the biotech believes it could take up whatever mantle Padcev leaves behind.
Tuesday’s round was led by Pontifax Venture Capital and includes RA Capital Management, OrbiMed Advisors, Surveyor Capital and Hadean Ventures as new investors, as well as existing investors Kurma Partners, NRW.BANK, High-Tech Gründerfonds, Gründerfonds Ruhr and Bpifrance through its InnoBio 2 fund.