ADC Therapeutics CEO Chris Martin (L) and Overland COO/CBO Ed Zhang

Go­ing to Chi­na? ADC Ther­a­peu­tics spot­lights a new way to do it with Hill­house-backed Over­land

Chris Mar­tin and his crew at ADC Ther­a­peu­tics went in­to the JP Mor­gan Health­care con­fer­ence this Jan­u­ary armed with pos­i­tive piv­otal da­ta for its lead an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate, lon­cas­tux­imab tesirine. Hav­ing fo­cused its de­vel­op­ment pro­gram ex­clu­sive­ly in the US and Eu­rope, it was time to find a Chi­nese part­ner.

The search, which stretched out over the next few months, cul­mi­nat­ed in six term sheets, from large phar­ma, on­col­o­gy spe­cial­ists and all. But one bid­der stood out: Over­land Phar­ma, the fledg­ling plat­form play co-found­ed by ven­ture part­ners at Hill­house Cap­i­tal, a mar­quee VC firm Mar­tin has come to re­spect.

“It was a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent struc­ture,” he told End­points News.

In­stead of sim­ply li­cens­ing lon­ca, Over­land pro­posed start­ing a joint ven­ture — one AD­CT would own 49% of — to house the Greater Chi­na and Sin­ga­pore rights to a to­tal of four AD­Cs in the Swiss biotech’s port­fo­lio, with $50 mil­lion in up­front in­vest­ment from Hill­house. The team of 30-plus Over­land staffers would ini­tial­ly shoul­der much of the lo­cal de­vel­op­ment and reg­u­la­to­ry work, both start­ing bridg­ing stud­ies de­signed specif­i­cal­ly for the li­censed ter­ri­to­ries and loop­ing them in­to glob­al tri­als. ADC will send the same num­ber of reps to the board of di­rec­tors as Over­land.

As the bio­phar­ma world learned last week with Over­land’s de­but, the start­up is pitch­ing it­self as a spring­board for West­ern drug de­vel­op­ers to bring not just prod­ucts, but their cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies to Chi­na through plat­form plays.

To be sure, joint ven­tures in Chi­na are noth­ing new. In the most promi­nent ex­am­ple, CAR-T pi­o­neers Kite, Juno and the less­er known Sin­ga­pore­an cell ther­a­py biotech Tes­sa have all set up JVs with lo­cal com­pa­nies — al­beit go­ing with hefty, es­tab­lished play­ers in the phar­ma scene.

On the sur­face, Over­land is more like Zai Lab, Ever­est Med­i­cines or even Per­cep­tive’s Lian­Bio in that it’s small­er and built ex­plic­it­ly to source for­eign in­no­va­tion in­to Chi­na. But be­hind it is an ex­ten­sive ecosyt­sem, from a net­work of CROs and man­u­fac­tur­ers to a com­mer­cial sales force, that Hill­house has as­sem­bled over the years.

Both part­ners have am­bi­tious goals for Over­land AD­CT Bio­phar­ma, which Mar­tin en­vi­sions grow­ing in­to a stand­alone com­pa­ny with multi­bil­lion mar­ket cap that can file for an IPO on the Hong Kong stock ex­change in a few years’ time.

Hua Mu

“We’ve been fol­low­ing in on the land­scape of ADC close­ly,” Over­land CMO and in­ter­im CEO Hua Mu said. “We know it’s an evolv­ing tech­nol­o­gy par­tic­u­lar­ly over the re­cent 2 years.”

But the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­i­ty of pro­grams are fo­cused on sol­id tu­mors, added Ed Zhang, the COO and CBO. You can find 10 or 12 dif­fer­ent AD­Cs tar­get­ed at HER2, but lon­ca and oth­er drugs from AD­CT (name­ly AD­CT-602, AD­CT-601 and AD­CT-901) would be the first com­pounds tagged with a pyrroloben­zo­di­azepine-based pay­load aimed at hema­to­log­i­cal in­di­ca­tions.

In the lead in­di­ca­tion of third-line re­lapsed/re­frac­to­ry dif­fuse large B cell lym­phoma, lon­ca spurred an over­all re­sponse rate of 48.3%. Giv­en that the 5-year sur­vival for DL­B­CL in Chi­na is 38% com­pared to 68% in the US and Eu­rope, Mu added, the drug would fill a huge gap.

While AD­CT is sup­ply­ing the ini­tial tri­al ma­te­r­i­al so that they can move as fast as pos­si­ble, there are tech trans­fer plans to even­tu­al­ly en­able man­u­fac­tur­ing in Chi­na — both for do­mes­tic use and be­yond.

“It’s more like a step­wise or two-step ap­proach,” Mu said.

From Lau­sanne, Switzer­land, Mar­tin not­ed he’s been com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Boston-based Zhang, Seat­tle-based Mu and the team in Chi­na via “hun­dreds of Zoom calls and Teams calls” as well as pho­tos.

It helped that he’s met the founders as well as the broad­er Hill­house team, he said. In fact, they were so keen not to lose time that AD­CT start­ed work­ing with Over­land be­fore for­mal­ly putting the JV to­geth­er.

“I think you learn to trust peo­ple by see­ing whether they do what they say. I think that’s a two-way street,” he said. “I must say I’ve been ex­treme­ly im­pressed by the Over­land team, not just the lead­er­ship team but the 30 peo­ple that they have work­ing with them. They’ve been very re­spon­sive, they’ve got on well with our — well, we have quite de­mand­ing clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and CMC teams, they’ve got on well and been re­spon­sive and they’ve moved for­ward, ef­fec­tive­ly done what they say they would do.”

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Covid-19 roundup: EU and As­traZeneca trade blows over slow­downs; Un­usu­al unions pop up to test an­ti­bod­ies, vac­cines

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Early Wednesday, an EU Commission spokeswoman said that “the representative of AstraZeneca had announced this morning, had informed us this morning that their participation is not confirmed, is not happening.” But an AstraZeneca spokesperson later called the reports “not accurate.”

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Adeno-associated virus-1 illustration; the use of AAVs resurrected the gene therapy field, but companies are now testing the limits of a 20-year-old technology (File photo, Shutterstock)

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Pascal Soriot, AP

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Anthony Fauci, NIAID director (AP Images)

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Jackie Fouse, Agios CEO

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