WuXi XDC, hot off $520M IPO, inks antibody-drug conjugate deal with Celltrion

Shortly after its spinoff and IPO, WuXi Biologics’ subsidiary WuXi XDC has locked up a major customer on its quest to establish itself as a premier bioconjugation contract research, development and manufacturing organization.

WuXi XDC has entered a pact with South Korea’s Celltrion to help develop and manufacture bioconjugates, which will include the red-hot field of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), the parties said Wednesday.

Under the deal, WuXi XDC will become the primary service provider on each of the partners’ integrated projects, which will run the gamut from worldwide process development to manufacturing. The partnership will support Celltrion’s pipeline advances in a bid to develop high-quality ADCs “at a fast speed,” WuXi XDC said in a press release.

No financial terms were disclosed.

The deal comes just a few months after WuXi XDC successfully spun off from WuXi Biologics and launched onto the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

WuXi Biologics and XDC first unveiled their spinoff plan back in July. At the time, the companies said the move would allow WuXi XDC to take up position on an independent playing field where it could “fuel and realize” its growth potential.

Last year’s refocusing came at an “inflection point” for the ADC and bioconjugate market, according to WuXi Bio. At the same time, some of XDC’s market opportunities were “beyond the scope of WuXi Biologics,” creating a precedent for the spinoff.

WuXi XDC formally launched on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Nov. 17, issuing around 178.45 million shares at a price of $20.60 Hong Kong dollars per share. With that offering, WuXi XDC said it expected to reel in proceeds of around $4.07 billion Hong Kong dollars (about $521 million).

Earlier that same month, WuXi XDC said much of what it reaped from its IPO would go back into the company’s production facilities in the Chinese city of Wuxi and Singapore.

At the China site, WuXi XDC said it aimed to bolster capabilities and capacity to encompass “full-spectrum” operations from antibody intermediates to drug products, with the overall goal of becoming self-sufficient and developing enough capacity for multiple late-stage projects.

Over in Singapore, meanwhile, WuXi XDC said it hoped to set up a “manufacturing base” and roll out a “global dual sourcing” strategy.

ADCs have been the focus of several prominent buyouts and tie-ups in recent months. Perhaps most notably, Pfizer in December wrapped up its $43-billion buyout of ADC specialist Seagen. The deal equipped Pfizer with four approved Seagen cancer drugs—Adcedris, Padcev, Tivdak and Tukysa—for a total of nine oncology medications that are already blockbusters or have blockbuster sales potential.

Elsewhere, other big pharma players like AbbVie, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb have also penned deals around ADCs.