CDMO Sterling plots buyout of antibody-drug conjugate specialist in play at next-gen oncology market

Sterling Pharma Solutions Cary, NC
Sterling has been rapidly expanding its U.S. presence, including buying this Cary, North Carolina, site back in 2019. (Sterling Pharma Solutions)

A little more than two months after bolstering its manufacturing presence in the U.S., CDMO Sterling Pharma Solutions is expanding its scope once more, this time in the realm of next-gen cancer meds.

Sterling is placing a “significant investment” into U.K.-based antibody-drug conjugate specialist ADC Biotechnology with the goal of buying out the company in full by the first quarter of 2021, the companies said Wednesday.

Armed with ADC’s antibody-drug conjugate know-how and Sterling’s high-potency small molecule manufacturing expertise, the partnership will allow Sterling to bring ADC's experts in-house, turning the CDMO into a one-stop-shop for development and manufacturing work for a growing wave of powerful cancer fighters.

The financial terms of the investment and planned buyout were not disclosed, a Sterling spokeswoman said in an email.

RELATED: Merck KGaA's MilliporeSigma pumps $65M into new facility for next-generation oncology meds

Under the terms of the deal, all antibody-drug conjugate production work will take place at ADC's facility at the Deeside Industrial Park in Wales, though Sterling hopes to eventually leverage its facility in Germantown, Wisconsin, to supply active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and drug payloads for the therapies, the spokeswoman said. 

The companies predict the move will tee up continued innovation around the science of ADCs—highly targeted biopharmaceuticals that combine monoclonal antibodies with potent cancer meds via a chemical linker. 

Further down the line, this could see Sterling become a “competitive force in the race to find the latest generation of drugs in the oncology area,” Sterling CEO Kevin Cook said in a release.

Meanwhile, Sterling is well-positioned to support ADC manufacturing work thanks to a facility purchase earlier this fall. In October, the company snapped up Alcami’s former API plant in Germantown as part of a four-year, $46 million bid to beef up U.S. operations.

The Germantown site will boast “specialist expertise” in technologies like cryogenic reactions and plant-scale hydrogenation—the process of adding molecular hydrogen to another compound. 

RELATED: Merck's Seattle Genetics ADC deal extends blockbuster Keytruda franchise: analyst

It’s also Sterling’s second U.S. plant acquisition in two years, following the company’s purchase of its Cary, North Carolina location, CiVentiChem. The Cary facility boasts development laboratories and kilo-scale manufacturing suites for complex chemistry work, enabling Sterling to provide chemical development more easily to its clients.

As it stands, the API maker now employs more than 700 people at home in the U.K. and stateside, Sterling said.

Sterling and ADC are far from the only companies involved in the arms race to chase cutting-edge oncology meds. As part of a tie-up with an undisclosed partner, Swiss manufacturer Lonza on Wednesday announced it would build two manufacturing suites at its Visp, Switzerland, facility for commercial production of two ADC cancer fighters. The 16,146-square-foot expansion is pegged to come online at the end of 2022 and will eventually employ 200 staffers. 

Plus, Merck KGaA's MilliporeSigma unit in September said it would plow $65 million into a new commercial building near its Madison, Wisconsin, plant to ramp up production of high potency APIs used to make antibody-drug conjugates. The expansion is set to add 50 new full-time employees starting next year, with completion of the commercial building expected to wrap by mid-2022, the company said.