Theraclone, VLST Founders Form New Antibody Startup, V-Gene

1/26/12Follow @xconomy

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starting their companies at Accelerator, brought a second key piece of technology to help V-Gene get started. The latest DNA sequencing instruments have gotten so fast and cheap that it is now possible to get detailed genetic readouts on a variety of immune system B-cells that people develop in response to certain pathogens. Wiley described some of this work in a July paper in Science Translational Medicine, in which he said his affiliation was with a company called Imdaptive, Inc.

So by combining the in-depth look at the underlying DNA in the “immune repertoire” of B-cells, and combining that with Stine’s technology that works at the level of functional proteins, the two scientists believe they have a new tool for narrowing down a list of antibody drug candidates with the right properties for animal and human trials. An antibody candidate could come out of that screening process with a better ability to be the key that fits just right into the lock, or to bind more tightly with the target, Stine says.

“You may actually be missing antibodies that are better than the ones you’re screening for. That’s why it makes sense to add next-gen sequencing,” Stine says. Customers of North Coast, he says, have been asking about incorporating the genetic screening capability quite a bit recently.

Other companies are jumping in to the game by using next-generation DNA sequencing tools to examine the immune system’s diversity, including Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies and South San Francisco-based Sequenta. And there are several aggressive antibody discovery startups out there, including Lebanon, NH-based Adimab and San Franciscoo-based Ablexis. Stine says V-Gene is different in how it is combining its gene-and-protein technologies specifically for developing antibody drug candidates.

Now with its financing on the way, Stine says he plans to get the new company going at the North Coast Biologics operation, with plans to hire a core team of a half dozen people. He says he’s eager to get started because his North Coast customers have been asking about how to incorporate some of the genomics work into his antibody screening technologies. “This is exciting. It’s finally happening. We’ve got partners, and this is the next step. I think we’re going to be like an antibody accelerator,” Stine says.

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