Genmab could soon join the growing list of companies targeting the antibody drug conjugate (ADC) market, with the announcement that it has agreed to acquire ProfoundBio for $1.8bn.

The deal, which is backed by both companies’ boards, is expected to close in the first half of this year, according to a 3 April press release.

As per the acquisition agreement, Danish drugmaker Genmab will gain access to ProfoundBio’s ADC technology platform along with three clinical assets.

Genmab placed a particular spotlight on Rina-S (rinatabart sesutecan) – ProfoundBio’s ADC currently in a Phase I/II trial (NCT05721222) for the treatment of ovarian cancer. Rina-S, a topoisomerase1-based conjugate, targets folate receptor-alpha – a protein that is overexpressed in ovarian cancer. The biotech said it plans to broaden the development plans for the drug within ovarian cancer and other folate receptor-alpha-expressing solid tumours. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already granted Rina-S a fast-track designation.

This could put Genmab in direct competition with AbbVie, whose folate receptor-alpha antibody Elahere (mirvetuximab soravtansine-gynx) – gained in a $10.1bn acquisition of ImmunoGen – won an accelerated approval for treating ovarian cancer in a certain setting back in 2022. The drug gained full approval in January this year.

Also in ProfoundBio’s pipeline are ADC candidates that target CD70, PTK7 and EGFR in solid tumour and haematological malignancy indications.

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ProfoundBio’s ADC assets will complement a Genmab oncology portfolio that already centres around antibody-based therapies. The biotech’s bestselling drug is monoclonal antibody Darzalex (daratumumab), indicated for treating multiple myeloma and light chain amyloidosis. Darzalex, co-developed with Janssen, generated sales of $9.7bn in 2023, up 22% from 2022. According to GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Centre, the blockbuster drug is forecast to make over $17bn in sales by 2030.

GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology.

Genmab’s CEO Jan van de Winke said: “We believe that ProfoundBio’s ADC candidates, proprietary technology platforms and talented team will be a great addition to Genmab.”

ADC deal flurry

ADCs are becoming one of the hottest new areas of cancer therapeutics, with multiple big players in the pharma industry tying up deals to include them in their portfolios. Just yesterday, Ipsen signed a global licensing agreement with Sutro Biopharma to develop ADCs in a deal worth up to $900m. The biggest acquisition to date in the space remains Pfizer’s buyout of ADC-specialist Seagen, a deal that totalled $43bn, in December 2023.

In the same month, Bristol Myers Squibb paid a sky-high price of $8.4bn to pin down co-development and commercialisation duties for SystImmune’s non-small cell lung cancer candidate. Johnson and Johnson also made an ADC move around the same time, inking a $1.7bn licensing deal with South Korean Biotech LegoChem.