Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Notes from BIO: Adimab Pulls Back the Curtain

Adimab, the yeast-platform antibody discovery play we wrote about here, has essentially been quiet about the specifics of its highly anticipated platform technology. Until today.

During a panel here at BIO founder Tillman Gerngross unveiled the details this morning: Adimab is re-engineering yeast cells to create antibody factories. The technology is completely separate from the GlycoFi yeast manufacturing system that Gerngross sold to Merck in 2006 for $400 million.

"In essence we’ve created a synthetic human immune system in yeast, and the yeast will do what a normal B cell does, which is create an antibody," Gerngross explained during his presentation. Those antibodies can then be optimized and eventually manufactured in a variety of expression systems: yeast, CHO, whatever. He claims the Adimab libraries will have a diversity that is more functional and more human than other ‘fully human’ antibody technologies, because of the way they're created.

The proof of Adimab's success will come when it executes on deals for the technology, Gerngross said in an interview. The company is currently working on three customer programs--a kind of 'try-before-you-buy' arrangement that will allow companies to kick the tires. “We want potential partners to convince themselves that it works. You send us an antigen and we either send you 100 antibodies in eight weeks or we don’t.” Gerngross promises more news on the partnering front "in the not too distant future." Given his and co-founder Dane Wittrup's track records, we have a feeling the news will be interesting.

Validation will not be coming from in-house drug discovery programs, he says. “We have no intention of becoming a drug discovery company,” says Gerngross. Why not? “Because we’re not good at it! Let everyone else do it, everyone else certainly wants to. We’re providing what we think will be the best tool to do it.”

We'll have more on Adimab's platform technology in the next issue of START-UP.
image from flickr user danagraves used under a creative commons license.

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