Animal health vet Juergen Horn makes new antibody play for pets, raking $15M in Series A haul
Zoetis forked over $85 million in 2017 to acquire Nexvet Biopharma and its pipeline of monoclonal antibodies. Juergen Horn, Nexvet’s former chief product development officer, has now secured $15 million for his own biologic company for animals: Invetx.
Buoyed by emerging advances in gene therapies for humans, scientists have started looking at harnessing the technology for animals setting up companies such as Penn-partnered Scout Bio and George Church-founded Rejuvenate Bio. But akin to Nexvet, Invetx is working on leveraging the time-tested science of monoclonal antibodies to treat chronic diseases that afflict man’s best friend.
“(T)his is proven technology and has the highest chance of success — the discovery platforms are validated, the manufacturing and development is relatively explored and there is a clear path to bring these products to market, and then we can make them affordable,” Horn noted in an interview with Endpoints News.
The animal health field can be lucrative, with 67% of US households, or about 85 million families, owning a pet, according to the 2019-2020 survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association.
So far there is only one recombinant protein drug, an antibody, available for veterinary use in the United States and Europe. The global animal health medicines and vaccines market was estimated to be worth $34 billion in 2019, according to Invetx.
The prices of the species-specific products Invetx is developing should reflect the price tags of existing therapies for animals — which typically range from somewhere between $50 and $120 for a monthly injectable, excluding the vet’s fees, Horn said.
He did not disclose Boston-based Invetx’s pipeline, except to say that the company’s lead product would enter clinical development in 2020 and that Invetx is focusing on fields such as allergy, pain and cancer.
“We do not have our own labs, we do not plan to bring technologies in house and try to copy and repeat what has been established on the human side. We feel that it’s much more efficient to have the experts do the actual research,” he added.
Horn, a veterinary surgeon by training, has previously also worked with Elanco and Novartis Animal Health.
Along with the $15 million round, led by founding investor, Anterra Capital, Invetx also revealed collaborations with WuXi Biologics to help with manufacturing as well as AbCellera to accelerate its preclinical activities using the Vancouver-based company’s platform for antibody discovery.
“I don’t think we can ever reach the same quality and capabilities that for example, our partner Abcellera, can achieve in their platform. They obviously work for Big Pharma companies that do that every day,” he said.
“With WuXi, it’s even clearer there. We could never set up our own manufacturing at the same scale in the same expertise level that a global CMO can do that. And that leads to better products and also reduced costs. That’s at least the plan.”
And consolidation is ripe in the space, as industry players look to expand their market share across geographies and in tangential businesses to lower exposure to any one region, product line or species. In August, Eli Lilly spinoff Elanco disclosed it was purchasing Bayer’s veterinary unit in a deal worth $7.6 billion creating the second-largest animal health company in the field.
In 2018, Elanco generated sales of about $3.1 billion, while Bayer’s AH unit raked in about $1.6 billion. The leading firm in the sector — Zoetis — brought in roughly $5.8 billion in sales.