Adcendo raises €51M series A round to pursue 'ideal' ADC target

The Adcendo team (Adcendo)

Adcendo has raised a €51 million ($62 million) series A round to develop antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). The Novo Seeds-Ysios Capital-led financing positions Adcendo to take an anti-uPARAP ADC to clinical proof of concept in cancer patients. 

Lars Henning Engelholm, Ph.D., Niels Behrendt, Ph.D., Christoffer Nielsen, Ph.D., and their collaborators have published a series of papers on the uPARAP/Endo180 receptor over the past decade. The researchers’ interest in hitting the target with ADCs led them to set up Adcendo with Henrik Stage, who helped lead Santaris Pharma to a takeover from Roche in 2014.

Adcendo attracted the support of Novo Seeds in 2017. Now, after being incubated at Copenhagen’s BioInnovation Institute, Adcendo has attracted a clutch of other VCs for a financing round hailed as the biggest series A by a Danish biotech.

Ysios, RA Capital Management, HealthCap and Gilde Healthcare have joined with Novo Seeds for the round to support work on a target Adcendo thinks is ideally suited to an ADC approach. The target, uPARAP, is a collagen scavenger receptor that is overexpressed on the cell surface of a range of cancers, including glioblastoma multiforme and triple-negative breast cancer, and restricted to minor subsets of mesenchymal cells in healthy adults.

The overexpression is part of the appeal of uPARAP. The function of the receptor is the other critical element. As the receptor brings collagen into cells, Adcendo plans to use it as a “drug internalization pump” that transports therapeutic payloads into cancer cells. 

In a mouse model with human uPARAP-positive leukemic cells, an ADC carrying the monomethyl auristatin E payload to the target achieved complete responses without causing detectable adverse events. Engelholm, Behrendt and Nielsen published the mouse paper in 2017.

Equipped with the series A funds, Stage and Nielsen, who respectively serve as CEO and chief operating officer, will oversee efforts to take the uPARAP program to clinical proof of concept while building a pipeline of ADCs against other cancer targets. The work could position Adcendo as an emerging force in a field that has come of age in recent years, as a flurry of ADCs have come to market and companies such as AstraZeneca, Gilead and Merck have placed big bets on the modality.