Ablexis Cuts Deal With Pfizer, Four Other Pharmas, For Antibody Drug Discovery Tool

10/26/10Follow @xconomy

Ablexis didn’t force its investors to wait very long to see some returns. The San Francisco-based biotech company is announcing today it has struck an unusual deal to provide its antibody drug discovery technology to five big drugmakers simultaneously, as an alternative way to generate returns without waiting around for the unlikely event of an IPO, or a lucrative company takeover.

Terms of the deal are mostly confidential, although Ablexis CEO Larry Green is disclosing that New York-based Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) is one of the companies obtaining rights to the Ablexis technology for discovering and developing antibody drugs. Pfizer, along with four other unnamed companies, are paying at least $1 million each upfront to Ablexis to the right to its transgenic mouse technology. More importantly, when Ablexis is ready to officially hand over the technology, it will get payments worth more than $10 million from all five big drugmakers, which will provide liquid returns to investors, Green says. He didn’t say how long it will be before Ablexis is ready to deliver the finished product, and collect all five of the 8-figure checks.

The deal represents a potentially quick buck for Ablexis’ investors. The company raised $12 million from Third Rock Ventures and Pfizer Ventures in a Series A round back in June. The vision was all about creating a new genetically engineered mouse that could be a prolific engine for antibody drug candidates that are potent inhibitors against certain markers found on diseased cells, while mostly sparing healthy tissues. Past innovators in the antibody world, like Protein Design Labs, Abgenix, and Medarex, have either been acquired or otherwise encumbered by business deals that make it difficult for their technology to get in the hands of Big Pharma companies. And there’s a huge thirst in Big Pharma to get into the antibody drug market, which basically didn’t exist in the mid-90s, but now comprises a $30 billion global market.

“This really speaks to the acute need out there on the part of experienced antibody drug discoverers and developers for robust platforms,” Green says.

Ablexis, as I described in a feature back in June, is all about creating genetically modified mice that can churn out a wide diversity of fully human antibodies against a certain target. Instead of creating these antibodies in a lab dish, and sending them off … Next Page »

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