Catalent lends its weight to an armed-antibody cancer candidate

Drug developer Catalent ($CTLT) is teaming up with biomarker outfit Minomic International to get a new prostate cancer treatment into the clinic, tapping its expertise in crafting targeted oncology treatments.

The drug is an antibody-drug conjugate, designed to home in on tumor cells by mimicking the body's natural defenses and deliver a cancer-killing payload while sparing healthy tissue. Under the agreement, Catalent will manufacture the antibody, called MIL-38, for a clinical study, and if the drug comes through in its first-in-human trial, the company will expand into larger-scale production.

The deal centers on Catalent's GPEx technology for biologics manufacturing, a speedy process the company touts as getting drug candidates into the clinic in about one-third the time it takes with traditional methods. Work on MIL-38 will take place at Catalent's biomanufacturing hub in Madison, WI, where the company recently invested about $20 million to roughly quadruple its capacity.

For Minomic, which is simultaneously working on a prostate cancer companion diagnostic, teaming up with Catalent provides a springboard for MIL-38 as it moves through early development, CEO Brad Walsh said.

"Early signs in the study are extremely encouraging," Walsh said in a statement. "... We are already close to bringing a new, noninvasive testing kit for prostate cancer to market using the same antibody target. Leveraging our existing technology to develop a therapeutic antibody in conjunction with Catalent is our ultimate aim."

As for Catalent, the New Jersey-headquartered company is in its early days as a public company after pulling off an $871.3 million IPO in July.

- read the statement