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Antibody Developer Secures $40M from Foundation Investors

Lab mouse

(George Shuklin/Wikimedia Commons)

16 May 2014. Kymab Ltd., a developer of human antibodies from mouse genomes, raised $40 million in its second round of venture investment from the Wellcome Trust, an original backer of the company, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Kymab, based in Cambridge, U.K., is also collaborating with the Gates Foundation in research on discovery of antigens for vaccines to prevent malaria and HIV.

The company designs therapeutic monoclonal antibodies engineered from immune cells identical to specific parent cells, and thus bind to those specific cells, parts of cells, or proteins from cells for actions that influence their behavior. Its technology is based on the research of founder Allan Bradley of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute who developed a process for deriving human antibodies from mice genetically engineered from embryonic stem cells. Bradley also serves as Kymab’s chief scientist.

In March 2014, the journal Nature Biotechnology published findings from a study led by Bradley showing that mice genetically engineered from stem cells could produce genes that encode human antibodies that address a broad range of epitopes, the part of antigens recognized by antibodies. The mice, the authors report, were viable and fertile, with the native part of the mouse immune system resembling that of wild mice.

Kymab says its technology platform, known as Kymouse, can produce highly evolved monoclonal antibodies without further lead optimization steps, since the molecules are already optimized as a result of their growth in the genetically engineered mice. The company adds that the Kymouse platform contains the entire collection of human antibodies, with normal immune responses and immune system B-cell maturation and fertility.

The company has two of its drug development programs in preclinical stage, for inflammatory bowel disease and graft-versus-host disease. Eight other programs covering a range of diseases are still in discovery phases. In April 2013, the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk licensed Kymab’s technology for drugs to address undisclosed disorders.

Kymab was founded in 2009 and funded in 2010 with £20 million ($32 million) of equity financing from the investment division of the Wellcome Trust.

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