Ligand to split in half, spinning OmniAb platform into its own company
It’s been six years since Ligand Pharmaceuticals plumped down $178 million for OMT and its antibody discovery platform OmniAb. Now, with a slate of big-name partners, it’s time for the technology to take on a new life as its own independent company, Ligand said yesterday.
Ligand is splitting into two separate, publicly traded businesses, the company announced just after the bell on Tuesday: one featuring the OmniAb business and the other housing Ligand’s existing royalties and technologies, including its Pelican protein expression platform and Captisol solubility tech.
“After significant planning and analysis, we have concluded we are operating two distinct, high-growth companies within Ligand,” CEO John Higgins said in a statement. “Along with outside advisors we have determined the time is right to pursue a strategic plan to create two independent companies and accelerate investment into the OmniAb platform and technologies to further drive value.”
Ligand’s stock $LGND was up more than 5% in pre-market trading, pricing in at just over $160 per share.
The news comes as the tech hunters at Ligand continue to shop for new assets. Just a few months ago, the company put down $438 million in cash, plus another $78 million in contingent value agreements to acquire Pfenex and their protein expression platform. They’ve attracted some impressive partners along the way, including a pact last February for one of Roche’s neurological programs, and a separate program from Icagen that is also backed by the CF Foundation.
This August, the OmniAb platform saw its first approval: an anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody called zimberelimab, which got the OK in China to treat recurrent or refractory classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma. GloriaBio discovered the drug back in 2015 using Ligand’s transgenic rat platform, OmniRat.
Ligand’s expecting a decision from Chinese regulators on another anti-PD-1 antibody discovered using OmniRat, EQRx and CStone’s sugemalimab, later this year. Based on current projections, Ligand says it could rack up 10 OmniAb approvals by 2028.
“We believe more than ever that OmniAb offers one of the industry’s leading antibody discovery platforms and that the business is primed for success for years to come,” Higgins said.
While Ligand’s board of directors hasn’t approved a specific course of action for the split, the leading option is an IPO and distribution of OmniAb shares to Ligand shareholders, according to the company.
A correction has been made to reflect that the CF Foundation-funded program is separate from the Roche program.