Promising better linker tech to ADC field, Araris has 'very, very ambitious' plans for the clinic
A couple months after raising CHF 2.5 million ($2.76 million) in initial seed funding, one-year-old Araris Biotech is topping off the round with another CHF 12.7 million ($14 million).
The Paul Scherrer Institute and ETH Zurich spinout now has CHF 15.2 million to work with, and CEO Philipp Spycher has big plans. He hopes to bring one of the company’s antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) to the clinic by late 2022 or early 2023. “It’s very, very ambitious, but we are very optimistic that we actually can make it,” he said.
ADCs have been around for “quite some time,” Spycher said. They consist of three parts: a drug payload, an antibody and a linker molecule that bridges the two together. They’re designed to deliver potent drugs to a desired tissue — for example, a chemotherapy agent to a tumor. However, the linker can be unstable, or even “fall off,” Spycher said.
“And this is where we come in,” he added. Araris is working on a stable, universal linker that can attach any off-the-shelf antibody with any payload, without the need for modification.
“Companies, they spend millions on identifying the proper antibodies. And then when you… need to modify this antibody in order to attach to the payload, this is what companies really don’t want to do,” Spycher said. The “beauty of the technology,” he added later, is that the ADCs can be generated “very easily,” cutting development costs and time.
As for the targets? “Stay tuned,” Spycher said. He expects more information regarding the company’s candidates to be released later this year.
The ADC field has seen a resurgence of players over the last few years, who join some longtime residents like Seagen (you may still remember it as Seattle Genetics) and — you guessed it — ADC Therapeutics.
Last year, the FDA granted accelerated approval for Padcev, an ADC developed by Astellas and Seagen for adults with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer who previously received a PD-1/L1 inhibitor and a platinum-containing chemo. And back in September, Merck struck a $1.6 billion deal to develop Seagen’s other ADC, ladiratuzumab vedotin. In May, ADC Therapeutics hit Nasdaq with a $233 million public debut.
“Today, there are nine antibody-drug conjugates approved by the FDA but many of them cannot be dosed high enough to elicit efficacy due to systemic toxicity often caused by linker instability or heterogenous distributions of the payload. The Araris technology addresses these limitations and offers a novel and innovative approach to bring better therapies to patients in need,” Dominik Escher, a managing partner at Pureos Bioventures and new member of Araris’ board of directors, said in a statement.
The most recent seed funding was led by Pureos, with a hand from 4BIO Capital, btov Partners, Redalpine, VI Partners and Schroder Adveq.
“It’s a very young company and I think we are progressing very well and can attract interest from large pharmaceutical companies, and also from investors,” Spycher said.