Novartis Test Drives Biotech Startup Adimab’s Drug Discovery Engine

Xconomy Boston — 

Lebanon, NH-based biotech startup Adimab has grown the ranks of its Big Pharma collaborators, which are coveted for their deep pockets and other resources they bring to smaller firms. Swiss drug giant Novartis has inked a research agreement with Adimab to access the startup’s synthetic immune system of sorts that churns out potential antibody drugs.

Adimab has announced research deals with four of the largest drugmakers in the world— Merck & Co., Roche, Pfizer, and now Novartis—since June 2009. It’s also collaborated with one undisclosed firm. The payments these companies have made to Adimab made the three-year old startup cash flow positive for the first time during the April, May, and June quarter of this year, says company co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross, and he expects the company to be profitable for the year.

The financial terms of Adimab’s deal with Novartis aren’t being disclosed. The agreement is for Adimab to use its technology to discover antibodies that could be drugs against two undisclosed disease targets of Novartis’s choosing. Merck has also made its second milestone payment to Adimab in their collaboration.

Novartis has decided to give Adimab’s technology a try despite the fact that the drug behemoth in 2007 struck a potential $1 billion-plus deal with Germany-based MorphoSys to gain broad access to that biotech’s method for discovering antibody drugs. To Gerngross, Novartis’s willingness to give his firm’s technology a shot provides extra validation of its potential to vastly streamline the process of discovering antibodies. Which could shrink the time it takes drug companies to identify antibodies that have the potential to be valuable and life-saving drugs for cancer, inflammatory diseases, neurological disorders, and other illnesses.

“What you’re seeing in the antibody discovery space is that [companies] that thought they had everything and already made very substantial financial commitments in that area still see something in our platform that has made them … Next Page »

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