Samsung Biologics, a contract development and manufacturing organization, has announced it will invest in expanding into the antibody-drug conjugate business. The CDMO will use the Samsung Life Sciences Fund for a strategic investment in Araris Biotech, a Swiss company developing a proprietary ADC linker technology.

The partnership will involve Samsung Biologics working with Araris to evaluate, manufacture, and develop assets using proprietary ADC technology.

“Araris has the potential to develop best-in-class ADC therapies, and we see room for collaboration in the manufacturing and development of new drugs,” said John Rim, president and CEO of Samsung Biologics.

What Are ADCs?

An antibody-drug conjugate is a type of targeted therapy, primarily used for cancer treatments, that combines the specificity of monoclonal antibodies with the potency of cancer-targeting cytotoxic drugs. ADCs consist of an mAb that’s chemically linked to a cytotoxic drug molecule via a linker. Araris is developing a novel linker technology, and as a CDMO, Samsung Biologics is investing in the potential of this technology to manufacture more effective drugs.

“We’re pleased to receive this support from Samsung, as well as the recognition of the potential of our linker-payload toolbox and conjugation technology in such a quickly growing ADC field,” said Philipp Spycher, chief executive officer and co-founder of Araris Biotech. “We look forward to using these proceeds to further support our efforts in advancing our ADC candidates toward the clinic.”

The antibody component of an ADC targets a specific antigen present on cancer cells, while the cytotoxic drug kills the cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (aka programmed cell death) or disrupting the cell cycle. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, which can damage healthy cells in addition to cancer cells, ADCs are designed to selectively target cancer cells, thus reducing the risk of side effects. ADCs can also be more effective than traditional chemotherapy, as they deliver the cytotoxic drug directly to cancer cells, rather than circulating throughout the body. This targeted approach may also help to reduce drug resistance, which is a common problem in cancer treatment.

As Araris works on this approach to targeted therapeutics, Samsung Biologics continues to develop its capabilities as a leading CDMO in the manufacture of mAbs, which are key components of ADCs. ADCs differ from mAbs in that they also contain a cytotoxic drug component connected to the antibody via a linking molecule. While mAbs are designed to bind to specific antigens on the surface of cancer cells, they don’t have a cytotoxic effect on their own, so they must be linked to a cytotoxic drug.

With its expertise in mAbs, paired with the company’s continued investment in ADC technology, Samsung Biologics can potentially help support the development and production of the mAbs needed to link to cytotoxic drugs.

ADCs and Long-Term CDMO Growth

Samsung Biologics’ investment in ADCs is part of a broader, multidimensional growth plan that involves combining portfolio diversification with increasing manufacturing capacity and expanding international reach.

At the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference held in January, Rim explained that the CDMO would invest in ADCs following its previous investments in biosimilars, mRNA vaccine production, and gene therapy. In 2022, The Samsung Life Sciences Fund, which was founded in partnership with Samsung C&T, was used to invest in Jaguar Gene Therapy and Senda Biosciences, a company developing a nanoparticle-based molecular profiling platform.

Rim explained that the CDMO “plans to expand its portfolio in line with market changes and prepare a foundation for sustainable growth.”

ADCs look to be a vital part of this portfolio expansion. The company has announced plans to build an ADC facility by the end of 2024, and its investment in Araris signals a commitment to carving out a spot in a fast-growing market expected to increase by $10 billion this decade, according to Strategic Market Research.

“Probably the quickest area of growth for us is ADC,” Rim said at the conference. “Our current clients are producing (monoclonal antibodies) which then get sent to a different CDMO for the linkage and conjugation components. So, we’re trying to vertically integrate.”

Next Steps for Samsung Biologics

For Rim and Samsung Biologics, portfolio diversification is a crucial part of CDMO growth, and it will look to continue to invest in innovative opportunities and seek new partners as technologies such as ADCs, mRNA vaccines, cell and gene therapies, and biosimilars.

Rim also emphasized that pursuing these new technologies will be coupled with a dedication to increasing the CDMO’s industry-leading manufacturing capacity in mAbs.

“With continued partnership expansion with global pharma, we are focused on achieving sustainable growth and securing more robust capacity with Plant 4 set to be fully operational by June and the groundbreaking of Plant 5 to occur later this year,” he said in the company’s Q1 2023 earnings report. “We will continue to anticipate client needs and execute on opportunities to meet the increasing market demand for biomanufacturing capacity.”

By Manali