Eli Lilly's Covid-19 partner AbCellera pays $90M for some very special mice as Peter Thiel jumps on the board and IPO rumors heat up
AbCellera Biologics is stepping onto Regeneron’s turf, putting down $90 million in cash to buy out Trianni and its humanized mouse technology for developing antibodies.
The 7-year-old biotech out of British Columbia is after the Trianni Mouse: a genetically engineered rodent that can generate fully human monoclonal antibodies. It’s also scooping up several “next-generation” mice under development. The move comes as AbCellera preps one of the biggest IPOs in an already record-breaking year for public debuts, unnamed sources told Bloomberg.
On Thursday, billionaire investor Peter Thiel joined the company’s board of directors. CEO Carl Hansen said Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and made the first outside investment in Facebook, “brings deep experience in scaling global technology companies.”
“Trianni marks our fourth and largest strategic technology addition to date,” Hansen said in a statement. “With its technology and team, Trianni amplifies our capability to generate human antibodies and provides a strong foundation for developing increasingly powerful transgenic mouse technologies.”
According to the Bloomberg report, AbCellera’s S-1 is likely to come in the next few days, and the offering could value the company at several billion dollars. Just last week, the biotech’s Covid-19 antibody treatment it developed with Eli Lilly got the FDA OK for emergency use.
“Trianni adds a key pillar to our platform, which now includes genetically engineered rodents, microfluidic single-cell screening, repertoire sequencing, AI-powered computation, and bispecific protein engineering,” Hansen said.
The deal comes with four mice under development. There’s the Heavy-Chain Only (HCO) Mouse, which is designed to express smaller, single-domain antibodies to go where conventional IgG molecules can’t; the All-Epitope Mouse, which AbCellera says produces an immune response against targets like GPCRs and ion channels; the DD mouse, which has long CDR3 loops designed to access “hidden” or recessed binding sites; and the Eazysort Mouse, created to help focus efforts on high-value antibodies.
Regeneron has worked for decades on its own transgenically humanized mice, which can be used to make antibodies for a range of diseases, from Ebola to colorectal cancer. The mice, which are engineered to have human-like immune systems, are exposed to a target protein which induces an antibody response. The company is developing its Covid-19 treatment on the same platform, which President Donald Trump touted as a “miracle” after receiving it back in October.
The drug maker is very protective of its technology, which is broken down into several branded components it calls the Velocisuite. In 2014, Regeneron sued two Pfizer-backed entities for patent infringement. And this year, it lost part of a years-long legal battle against Cambridge-based biotech Kymab, which it said infringed on patents it filed in 2012 around ways of genetically modifying a mouse.
Claiming the Kymouse was an “obvious” extension of its own work, Regeneron filed suits in the US, UK, Japan and Australia. In April, the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) rejected Regeneron’s request to invalidate 4 Kymab patents, and in June they rejected a 5th one.