Buying up antibodies for diagnostics
It was very interesting to see Novartis Venture Funds had put $12.5 million on a Lose Angeles-based start up, ImaginAb, which focuses on re-engineering antibodies into proteins that can be used for diagnostic imaging. As the focus on diagnostic technologies, particularly to demonstrate clinical benefit in tight healthcare budget, comes more prominent I am sure these agreements will become more common place. For example last year Merck licensed MorphoSys’s HuCAL GOLD technology for the field of vaccines and as did Proteomika, a company which specializes in biomarker discovery, which licensed 7 diagnostic HuCAL-Ab from MorphoSys’s AbD Serotec Division.
A recent study produced by Deloitte Recap in late 2011 commented on how pharma is stockpiling antibody technology around the world. Some of the trends noted was that autoimmunity, inflammatory and CNS were the richest deals. With these disease areas having broader market potential in possible label expansions, this came as little surprise. The study concluded that the high price paid were being justified because once antibodies are approved they are usually found to be very successful in treating disease with a significant unmet need. The highest deal terms are made in Phase II. All of the top 21 buyers were found to be building their portfolios of mAb products with Roche, Novartis, Bristol-Myers and Astrazeneca having inlicensed or brought technologies in all 7 defined mAb technology catergories.
It will be interesting to see if any new agreements are being formed by our meeting, Biomarker World Europe meeting in May!