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.

John Hig­gins

“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.

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Teva didn’t give a reason for its decision to leave, saying only in a statement to Endpoints News that it annually reviews “effectiveness and value of engagements, consultants and memberships to ensure our investments are properly seated.”

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