ADC Market Will Remain Hot in Oncology, Reaching $30B by 2028: Report

3D Rendering of ADC

Pictured: 3D rendering of antibody-drug conjugate/iStock, Love Employee

The antibody-drug conjugate market has been one of the hottest sectors in the biopharma industry as of late. Big players such as Pfizer, AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Merck and others are shelling out billions of dollars to acquire or license the breakthrough technology in targeted cancer therapy. This trend will continue over the next few years with the category worth nearly $30 billion by 2028, according to a new report from market intelligence firm Evaluate.

The report calls the antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) market the “hottest real estate in oncology” that will continue to attract big pharma investment over the next few years. In 2023, ADC-focused M&A and partnership activity totaled almost $100 billion in total in 2023, more than three times the value of similar deals in 2022 and nine times more than in 2019, Evaluate said.

Among the recent big deals: Pfizer acquired Seagen for $43 billion, AbbVie invested over $10 billion in ImmunoGen and Merck committed $4 billion upfront, with a potential total of $22 billion, for a stake in three of Daiichi Sankyo’s ADCs.

“ADCs combine the specificity of monoclonal antibodies with the potency of cytotoxic drugs to create what is in effect precision chemotherapy" and "the scientific and commercial promise are real,” the report concludes, while noting that big pharma is paying attention to Chinese companies that have become major players in ADC development in recent years.

Mark Landsell, practice lead at Evaluate and the director of asset and portfolio strategy, told BioSpace that several of the companies involved in the ADC space have seen “substantial” growth with their products on the market and he sees that number growing significantly. 

Last year, Roche’s breast cancer ADC Kadcyla topped the leaderboard with $3 billion in sales but Evaluate predicts that Daiichi Sankyo will rule the roost in 2028. Daiichi Sankyo is expected to pull in over $9.9 billion in sales due to a combination of Enhertu and datopotamab deruxtecan, if approved. Datopotamab deruxtecan has already shown some good results and the FDA has accepted its BLA.

Landsell noted that ADCs are “finally realizing their full potential” and while the technologies are not new, it sometimes takes time to come to fruition, especially because they represent a paradigm shift in cancer therapy with a potentially more precise and effective treatment approach. At the same time, he said there are significant challenges for the sector given that the design of ADCs is not as “predictable” as initially thought and that there is still trial and error involved in their development.

Evaluate's report shows that there are over 150 clinical-stage programs in the ADC field, with a dozen or so in Phase III, lending to the continued progress the market will make in the coming years.

Evaluate named ImmunoGen as one of the key players in the ADC market. AbbVie acquired the company and its ADC Elahere in November 2023 for $10 billion. The report also named Daiichi Sankyo and ADC Therapeutics among those in the key player category.

Seattle-based ProfoundBio was among the companies Evaluate determined was one to watch in the ADC space. This month, the biotech raised a $112 Million Series B to push four ADC candidates forward. The report also listed California-based biotech Dantari, Netherlands-based Tag Works and German biotech Tubulis as other companies to watch.

Looking ahead, Landsell said  there will be “continued growth” as there is a significant pipeline in the ADC market. And even if some ADCs eventually fall out by the wayside, a “plentiful supply” of candidates will make it through as companies keep forging on with research and development in the space.

“Despite a chock-full ADC pipeline, accessing even early-stage assets is now tricky for all but the biggest and richest,” the report states, noting that one biotech CEO in September 2023 “declared being ‘priced out’ of ADC licensing negotiations despite having raised close to $200 million.”

Tyler Patchen is a staff writer at BioSpace. You can reach him at tyler.patchen@biospace.com. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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