The antibody discovery team at Twist bets on mouse model player in a boost to its portfolio
Twist Bioscience has come a long way since dipping its toes into the antibody discovery space a couple years ago, spinning out its first company just last week to take a Covid-19 antibody into the clinic. There’s plenty more where that came from, CEO Emily Leproust says — and she thinks a small biotech’s mice are the key to getting there.
Leproust is putting down up to $10 million in cash and another $140 million in stock to buy out Massachusetts-based Abveris (formally known as AbX Biologics) and its family of hyperimmune mouse models, she announced on Monday morning. If Abveris hits an internal revenue target next year, it’s eligible for up to another $40 million in Twist shares.
“It’s one more arrow to add to our quiver,” Leproust said. While Twist specializes in synthetic DNA and boasts an antibody “library of libraries,” Abveris is known for its in vivo antibody discovery services.
“Combining the two just kind of supercharges the offering,” Leproust said, adding that some customers might prefer to start with a mouse model. “I think it just makes us much more universal for all antibody discovery and optimization needs.”
Twist was founded in 2013 to manufacture synthetic DNA by writing it on a silicon chip. It’s a process that allows scientists to make 10,000 genes at a time, according to SVP of corporate affairs Angela Bitting. Then, about two years ago, the company began using its robust libraries to help drugmakers discover new antibodies.
In the last couple months, the company has landed a $720 million deal with Boehringer Ingelheim to discover antibodies against a broad range of undisclosed targets, and a collaboration deal with Swiss-based deepCDR Biologics to screen and identify antibody candidates through deep learning.
Last week, Twist unveiled Revelar Biotherapeutics, its first spinout to develop and commercialize an antibody that Leproust said neutralized all known variants of SARS-CoV-2 in preclinical trials. If all goes according to plan, the candidate should enter the clinic next year. And Revelar can leverage Twist’s antibody platform and license additional antibodies — all for additional upfront, milestone and royalty payments to Twist.
Twist has other assets in the works, including immuno-oncology targets such as CD4 and PD-1, which Leproust says she plans to either spin or license out. And she’ll be on the lookout for more partners like Boehringer.
“Those are the kinds of deals we’re seeking,” she said.
The Abveris acquisition should bolster Twist’s biopharma revenue by about $10 to $12 million in 2022, CFO Jim Thorburn said in a statement.
“We are very committed to biopharma,” Leproust said. “This is the next step in aggressively growing the business in that area.”