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Start-Up Developing Coronavirus Antibodies, Raises $50M

Feeding bat

Bat Jungle, Monteverde, Costa Rica (A. Kotok)

17 July 2020. A new company is underway creating engineered antibodies to neutralize a range of coronaviruses, not just those causing Covid-19 infections. Adagio Therapeutics Inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts is spun-off from antibody discovery company Adimab LLC in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and raising $50 million in its first venture funding round.

The current Covid-19 pandemic is the latest of three coronavirus outbreaks in the past 20 years, beginning with severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS-CoV-1 in 2003, followed by Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, in 2012, and now SARS-CoV-2. Adagio Therapeutics is adapting technology from Adimab, pioneered by a founder of both companies, Tillman Gerngross, a biomedical engineering professor at Dartmouth College and serial entrepreneur. Adimab designs and discovers engineered antibodies for infectious diseases, mainly in partnership with other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies that conduct clinical trials and manufacturing.

Adagio focuses on engineered antibodies that can neutralize a broad range of coronaviruses. The company’s co-founder Laura Walker, also director of antibody sciences at Adimab, is senior author of a paper appearing last month in the journal Science describing the discovery of antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, as well as two other SARS-like viruses from bats, the suspected source of these viruses. These antibodies bind to proteins on the virus’s spikes and prevent attachment to receptors in cells, thus preventing infections.

“The repeated spillover of coronaviruses into the human population is now well documented and requires a more comprehensive strategy,” says Gerngross in an Adagio statement, “particularly when you take into account the emerging doubts about the robustness and durability of the immune response in SARS-CoV-2 patients.”

Gerngross adds that, “based on the serological response seen in convalescent patients, vaccines are not likely to be highly effective, may have limited durability, and are very likely to leave the elderly, the most vulnerable patients, without sufficient protection.”

Adagio says its antibodies, like those described in the Science paper, bind to a common target in the coronavirus spike proteins for SARS-CoV-1 and 2, as well as the bat coronaviruses, and also prevent excess spike proteins from escaping to stop further infections. The company envisions an antibody treatment administered twice a year that prevents more than 90 percent of infections from SARS-CoV-2, and also protects against other coronaviruses. Adagio expects to carry out preclinical studies of its antibodies as well as early-stage clinical trials.

Gerngross is Adagio’s CEO, while Walker is the company’s chief scientist. Adagio is raising $50 million in its first venture finance round, led by Polaris Partners and Mithril Capital, with other investments from Fidelity Management & Research Company, OrbiMed, M28 Capital, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and others.

“The technical differentiation and quality of Adagio’s work represents a major step forward for the field and generated overwhelming investor interest at a pivotal moment in our fight against the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic,” notes Marc Elia founder of M28 Capital.

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