Buoyed by preclinical success, Chinese and Korean biotechs expand ADC collaboration

After joining forces last year to work on an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) to treat brain cancer, China’s GeneQuantum Healthcare and South Korea’s Aimed Bio are expanding their partnership to encompass up to five more therapies.

GeneQuantum and Aimed first sealed a deal back in April 2022, working on an ADC called GQ1011 that targets fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3). The target has fallen out of favor in recent months, with both Pfizer and Fusion Pharmaceuticals culling their own FGFR3-targeting cancer meds this year.

The original plan was for GeneQuantum to leverage its ligase dependent conjugation technology platform to produce one “highly differentiated antibody against a unique target, a stable linker design and a novel payload with a strong by-stander killing effect.” The ADC was being designed to treat brain and other cancers, with hopes of entering human trials this year.

Since then, the companies have posted data for GQ1011 from in vivo models of bladder cancer and glioblastoma they say demonstrated “exceptional anti-cancer effects.” They were also pleased with the safety data from monkey models.

Based on these positive preclinical findings, the companies have decided to take their collaboration up a gear, with the aim of jointly developing up to a further five new ADCs to “address unmet clinical needs.”

Suzhou, China-based GeneQuantum already has a pipeline of 10 ADCs in various stages of development, including two HER2-focused molecules in phase 2 and phase 1 trials, respectively, for solid tumors. In contrast, Aimed, a spinoff of South Korea’s Samsung Medical Center, is usually focused on severe brain conditions, including neuro-oncology and neurodegenerative diseases.

Financial terms of both the original and expanded deal weren’t disclosed.