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another four or five people over the coming year, building on its existing staff of 22, Hawkinson says. The partnership also leaves Theraclone the flexibility to strike more partnerships with other companies interested in directing antibodies against different targets, he says.
Theraclone, founded in 2006, is one of the original “graduates” of Accelerator, the Seattle-based startup machine. The founding concept was for scientists to look at blood or tissue samples from patients, and identify antibodies against viruses, bacteria, or cancer cells. Nature has evolved some very clever defense mechanisms against these provocateurs, so Theraclone has sought to identify some of these antibodies in blood and then copy some of the most potent ones as genetically engineered drugs. The company raised $29 million in March 2007 from Arch Venture Partners, Canaan Partners, HealthCare Ventures, Amgen Ventures, MPM Capital, and Alexandria Real Estate Equities.
Theraclone hasn’t advanced any of its own drug candidates into clinical trials, although it has generated some significant interest in its discovery work. The company struck a partnership in 2009 with Japan-based Zenyaku Kogyo worth $18 million to develop broadly neutralizing antibodies against flu virus, which could be stockpiled in case of a pandemic. That deal came about a month after Theraclone and its academic collaborators published an important paper in Science about how they had found two new antibodies against HIV that are thought to broadly neutralize many variations of the virus circulating around the world.
In addition to the discovery work for Pfizer, Theraclone is seeking to advance its own pipeline of drug candidates. The most advanced candidate, designed to fight flu virus, is scheduled to enter its first clinical trial in 2011, Hawkinson says.
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