Drug Development

Zymeworks bags a protein engineering platform as it preps for an IPO

IPO-bound Zymeworks CEO Ali Tehrani bought himself a two-year runway back in January after completing a $61.5 million round. And following up on his clear desire to round out the Vancouver-based biotech’s technology foundation, Tehrani has completed a deal to in-license new protein engineering tech from Innovative Targeting Solutions.

Zymeworks CEO Ali Tehrani

Zymeworks CEO Ali Tehrani

The biotech, which is allied with a roster of marquee biopharma partners, bills this tech as “the first fully mammalian technology that generates antibody diversity in vitro via RAG1/RAG2 mediated V(D)J recombination, allowing for the generation and affinity maturation of highly potent protein-based biologics.” And that should go a ways toward developing better bispecifics and drug conjugates.

ITS gets an unspecified licensing fee in the deal for its HuTARG platform along with up to $65 million in milestones and royalties. And Zymeworks sets its sights on beating out some elite rivals “In our view. this platform is the next gen/disruptive to what Adimab, Anaptys, FivePrime etc can do in the space of antibody generation,” Tehrani tells me in an email message.  “With this platform we will generate a library of novel top-notch monospecific antibodies against a range of targets, which we then easily engineer into bispecifics and bispecifics ADCs. We bought an ADC company earlier and now added this piece on route to becoming fully integrated.”

Tehrani told me earlier in the year that he expects to launch an IPO when the time is ripe. In the meantime, he’s been building Zymeworks’ reputation around a slate of Big Pharma deals. In addition to Lilly and Celgene, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck have jumped on board the biotech’s primary Azymetric drug development platform. Much of the new money will be earmarked for the clinical development of two lead programs–ZW25 and ZW33.

Zymeworks is well connected. Eli Lilly and Celgene are listed among a group of backers that includes BDC Capital, Lumira Capital, CTI Life Sciences Fund, Fonds de solidarité FTQ, Perceptive Advisors, Teralys Capital, Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund, Brace Pharma Capital, Merlin Nexus and others.


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