CDMO Sterling, scaling up for the oncology arms race, acquires U.K. antibody-drug conjugate specialist

CDMO Sterling wants to become a competitor in the arms race to find the latest and greatest cancer meds. (Sterling Pharma Solutions)

Just months after plugging a "significant investment" into U.K.-based antibody-drug conjugate specialist ADC Biotechnology, Sterling Pharma Solutions has made good on its promise to acquire the company.

Sterling said Tuesday it has purchased ADC, picking up the company's Deeside, Wales, R&D facility in the process. The plant will rebrand under the Sterling Pharma Solutions banner and become an ADC development and manufacturing center, Sterling said in a release.

The CDMO says it will start bioconjugation and ADC production at the plant in 2022. The company wants to position itself as a “competitive force" in the oncological arms race, CEO Kevin Cook said in December when the company made its initial investment in ADC.

ADCs—a type of biopharmaceutical that use a chemical linker to combine monoclonal antibodies with potent cancer meds—are a key technology in the quest to develop cutting-edge cancer treatments.

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With the ADC buyout now inked, Sterling plans a "multi-million pound investment" to bolster its conjugation operations. Specifically, the company will develop and equip extra space at the plant for its technical and analytical services teams, a Sterling spokesperson said via email. The company is also gearing up for a hiring push at the facility. 

Sterling isn't disclosing the financial terms of the deal, the spokesperson said. 

In early December, the company made an undisclosed investment in ADC with plans to snap up the company outright in the first quarter of 2021. Under the deal, all ADC production work will take place at the Deeside plant. Sterling aims to eventually supply drug ingredients and payloads for the cancer therapies from its new facility in Wisconsin, as well, a company spokeswoman told Fierce Pharma at the time.

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In a multiyear effort to establish a foothold stateside, Sterling acquired the Germantown, Wisconsin, active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) plant from Alcami in early October. The facility came equipped with "specialist expertise" in technologies like cryogenic reactions and plant-scale hydrogenation—or the process of adding molecular hydrogen to another compound—Sterling said in October.

Sterling made its first push into the U.S. in April of 2019 when it acquired a Cary, North Carolina, plant from CDMO CiVentiChem.

It's far from the only contractor getting in on the ADC action. In September, Merck KGaA's MilliporeSigma unit laid out plans for a $65 million expansion in Wisconsin to amp up production of high-potency APIs for ADCs. Two months after that, CDMO juggernaut Lonza said it would build two manufacturing suites in Visp, Switzerland, for commercial production of a pair of cancer-fighting ADCs.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional comments from Sterling.