Ligand acquires antigen-discovery company Ab Initio Biotherapeutics

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Ligand acquisition of Ab Initio : US biopharma company Ligand Pharmaceuticals has acquired California-based antigen-discovery company Ab Initio Biotherapeutics for $12 million in an all-cash deal, as per the latest pharma acquisition news.

According to Ligand Pharmaceuticals, design and preparation of antigen are the first steps required for discovering therapeutic antibodies. The US biopharma company said that certain antibody targets are especially difficult and need a specialized approach to design, prepare and deliver an antigen to facilitate the discovery of an antibody drug candidate.

Ligand acquisition of Ab Initio is expected to have minimal impact on the former’s future cost structure.

Through the acquisition of Ab Initio, Ligand gets a patented antigen technology that is synergistic with its own OmniAb therapeutic antibody discovery platform. The new technology of Ab Initio will give the existing and potential new partners of Ligand improved capabilities for discovering therapeutic antibodies against difficult-to-access cellular targets.

Ligand acquisition of Ab Initio

Ligand acquisition of Ab Initio. Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Commenting on Ligand acquisition of Ab Initio, John Higgins – CEO of Ligand, said: “The Ab Initio technology is highly complementary to our OmniAb platform. Antigen generation is a required step in the antibody discovery process and some targets are very complex with the initial work of antigen design and preparation being difficult. By bolting on the proprietary antigen technology, Ligand will be able to more fully meet the needs of our partners.

“Since Ligand’s acquisition of OmniAb in 2016, we have continued to augment the platform through additional internal R&D, partnering and supporting acquisitions such as OmniChicken and now Ab Initio. Ligand is providing a cutting-edge antibody discovery platform that provides considerable value to our current partners.”

Ab Initio also has a collaboration agreement with US pharma giant Pfizer to discover therapeutic antibodies against an undisclosed target in the G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily. GPCRs are made up of the largest class of therapeutic drug targets, with major regulatory roles ranging from cardiovascular biology to metabolic health. As per the agreement, Ligand is entitled to get potential milestones and tiered royalties on potential future sales.

Currently, Ab Initio is also engaged in two unpartnered preclinical programs centered on hematological malignancies and solid tumors.

Kenneth Lin – CEO and co-founder of Ab Initio, commenting on Ligand acquisition of Ab Initio, said: “Our vision at Ab Initio has been to build on prize-winning scientific breakthroughs in GPCRs by creating antigens that enable antibody discovery against this challenging, but rich family of therapeutic targets. I am extremely excited that Ab Initio will join Ligand and am proud of our entire team’s accomplishments.

“The OmniAb platform is a natural fit and will allow the Ab Initio technology to seed the broader industry with exciting new discovery programs.”

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