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$50 million they’ve poured into the company by next year, and begin distributing profits to its shareholders through dividends, Gerngross says.
“It took Amgen over 30 years to pay a dividend,” he says. “It took us less than seven.”
And apparently, there’s more to come: Adimab has a contract with a third company and is in negotiations with “numbers four through seven,” according to Gerngross. Adimab’s technology will now be used in three sites around the globe— the company’s headquarters in New Hampshire, an undisclosed site run by GSK, and at Biogen’s site in Cambridge. Adimab’s goal is to have 10 sites using the technology by 2015 in addition to its current collaboration portfolio, which includes 21 partnerships spanning 35 potential drug programs.
“In other words, we’re building a very large portfolio of programs of which we own a royalty, while at the same time running a profitable business,” he says. “And there are just very, very few cases like this in our industry.”
The attraction to Adimab comes from its efficiency. By using genetically engineered yeast cells to produce human antibodies, Adimab can whip them up within eight weeks—much faster than the norm. Gerngross notes, for example, that by using Adimab’s platform, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: MACK) came up with three antibodies that were used to form a cancer drug known as MM-151 and filed an investigational drug application in 18 months. Merrimack dosed its first patient with the drug two years after discovery efforts began.
“This is a speed of drug discovery that just has never existed before,” he says. “And I think the folks at Biogen and GSK—having seen that and having been able to test it on their own targets—have said, ‘we need to have access to this.’”
Gerngross says that Adimab went through a competitive process to win the Biogen deal. Biogen wants to build a pipeline of biologic drugs that involved antibodies, and did a “side by side comparison” of Adimab’s technologies and other unspecified antibody discovery engines before picking Gerngross’ startup.
“In order to identify the best antibody discovery technology to support these efforts, we engaged in a rigorous selection process and Adimab was the clear winner,” said Werner Meier, Biogen’s vice president of biologics drug discovery, in the statement.
The result was a seven-year license given to Biogen to tap the technology to discover and optimize all types of antibodies in certain specific disease areas.
GSK, meanwhile, began searching two years ago for an antibody-making platform that it could use across all of its programs and any targets it wanted to go after, according to Ian Tomlinson, its head of worldwide business development and biopharmaceuticals R&D. Adimab gave GSK an already-validated platform with broad access to disease targets that could generate antibodies quickly, he says.
“A lot of display technologies and certainly immunization approaches don’t yield hits to all targets,” he says. “And it appears to us that this technology yields hits to the vast majority of targets you go after—and that’s very important if we’re going to use it as a broad platform to underpin our antibody discovery assets going forward.”
No surprise, then, that GSK’s deal with Adimab is much broader than Biogen’s. It’s a full license giving GSK indefinite access to use the technology to find any type of antibody for any potential therapeutic area. GSK even has an option to bring the technology to other research sites if it wants to.
Adimab’s shareholders would be more than happy if it did.
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