Adimab Proves Fast Antibody Discovery Tool to Merck, Roche; Snags New Deal With Pfizer

12/17/09Follow @xconomy

Adimab has an audacious goal for speeding up the way antibody drugs are discovered, and apparently it’s delivering the goods. The Lebanon, NH-based biotech company is announcing today it has collected milestone payments from its first two corporate partners, Merck and Roche, and built on that experience to grab a pair of additional partnerships with Pfizer and one other unnamed drug company.

Financial terms aren’t being disclosed, but I gathered the basic structure in a conversation yesterday with Adimab CEO Tillman Gerngross. Both Pfizer and the unnamed company have agreed to pay fees to support research at Adimab, as well as upfront cash, milestone payments, and royalties on sales for each drug or diagnostic that may someday be developed using the Adimab technology. Pfizer is using the Adimab technology to discover antibodies for a central nervous system disorder, while the unnamed partner is aiming to make antibodies against cancer.

While Adimab isn’t providing specific numbers, Gerngross tells me that securing these deals means that his 45-person company now has enough cash in the bank to operate for the next 10 years. The company is so confident that it has created something valuable to the pharmaceutical industry, that Gerngross vowed his company will secure two more partnerships before the end of March, plus two more by the end of June. Part of what’s driving it is that the pharmaceutical industry sees rapid growth in the $25 billion annual market for antibody drugs like rituximab (Rituxan) and trastuzumab (Herceptin), which can zero in on specific targets on diseased cells, while sparing healthy ones.

But that’s not the main reason the big players are beating a path to Lebanon, NH. They’re coming to Adimab for a method that can pump out hundreds of antibodies against a certain target in just two months of work, compared with six to 18 months of labor with the traditional methods used in biotech labs around the world, Gerngross said. The rest of the work in testing those drugs in animals and humans will be up to the major drug companies.

“People do a lot of promising in this business, and not a lot of delivering,” Gerngross said via phone from Nairobi, Kenya, where he was on vacation. “We take this very seriously. When we say we’re going to do something, we do at least that and more. It’s kind of embarrassing, but in this industry, that makes us stand out. We are doing these deals because we delivered.”

Gerngross can say stuff like that because he’s a proven player in the antibody drug business, after having sold his first company, Lebanon, NH-based GlycoFi, to Merck for $400 million in 2006. A year later, he started Adimab.

The idea, as Ryan has written about for Xconomy before, is to use a synthetic … Next Page »

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