The acquisition of DJS Antibodies, a privately-held UK-based biotechnology company dedicated to discovering and developing antibody medicines that target difficult-to-drug disease-causing proteins – such as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) – will extend AbbVie’s present discovery research capabilities, through DJS’ proprietary HEPTAD platform.
The HEPTAD platform generates potential novel antibodies against difficult-to-drug protein targets in immunology, and has specific capabilities which target transmembrane protein targets, complementing AbbVie’s current robust capabilities in biotherapeutics research.
Under the terms of the acquisition agreement, AbbVie will pay shareholders circa $255 million in cash at closing. DJS’ shareholders also remain eligible for potential additional payments upon the achievement of certain development milestones related to the success of the DJS-002 programme.
DJS Antibodies’ DJS-002 is a potential first-in-class lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) receptor 1 (LPAR1) antagonist antibody, in investigation in preclinical studies for treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and other fibrotic diseases. IPF is an aggressive respiratory disease that has a high mortality rate, caused by fibrotic scarring in the lungs. It remains an area of high unmet medical need.
DJS is backed by founding investors Oxford Science Enterprises and Johnson & Johnson Innovation Ltd., together with LifeArc, Amgen Ventures, and Sedgwick Yard.
DJS’ co-founders, David Llewellyn and Joe Illingworth said: “DJS was built on the principles of scientific curiosity and an aspiration to discover clinically meaningful innovative medicines. We’ve been privileged to grow the company within the world-class scientific and entrepreneurial community of Oxford, from an initial concept through to a successful biotech comprising an extremely talented team.”
Vice president and global head of discovery research at AbbVie, Jonathon Sedgwick, PhD, said: “This acquisition will deliver new capabilities to enhance our current antibody research activities, an opportunity to strengthen our immunology portfolio, and provide a strong foothold for expanded research efforts in the dynamic bioscience hub in Oxford, UK.”
With the BMA having recently warned of the decline in UK-based clinical research, following ABPI’s latest report, AbbVie’s acquisition of DJS Antibodies seems timely.
In addition to immunology, AbbVie’s other therapeutic research areas include oncology, neuroscience, eye care, virology, and gastroenterology.
AbbVie’s partnership with California biotech Calibr recently resulted in the first clinical data on their new CAR-T technology, which uses “switchable” cells that aim to eliminate the life-threatening side-effects that can occur with that type of immunotherapy.
Meanwhile, IPF has been a focal point of research of late, with Swedish digital health company Alex Therapeutics having recently reported encouraging results in its trial of a digital therapeutic (DTx) for anxiety in patients with the respiratory disease.
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