BioWorld International Correspondent

PanGenetics BV raised €13 million (US$15.6 million) in a Series B round to enable it to take its two lead monoclonal antibodies into clinical development.

ABN Amro BV, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, led the transaction, while Credit Agricole Private Equity, of Paris, and Series A investor Index Ventures, of London, also participated.

PanGenetics, of Utrecht, the Netherlands, has a history that goes back more than a decade. For part of that period, it was owned by Tanox Inc., of Houston, but it was re-established as an independent entity in 2004. It now is led by a team that held senior positions at Cambridge, UK-based Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc (CAT).

Its CEO is Kevin Johnson, former chief technology officer at CAT, who led the group that developed Humira (adalimumab), marketed by Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill. Chief Operating Officer Duncan Casson previously was vice president of program management and manufacturing at CAT. Vice president of preclinical research at PanGenetics Louis Boon is a co-founder of that company. Its original CEO and co-founder Mark de Boer now is a PanGenetics board member.

The company has adopted a no-research-development-only (NRDO) model for developing antibody-based drugs, in autoimmune disease and oncology. Johnson told BioWorld International that although the leading antibody companies with large market capitalizations are "almost without exception" technology-based, their real value lies elsewhere.

"If you look at where the valuable part of those companies is, it’s their pipeline," he said.

The bottleneck for antibody-based drugs, he said, is at the preclinical stage, rather than at the discovery stage. "You can discover a molecule relatively cheaply, but then taking that forward into development requires a different skillset and a lot of money. It is not something that is done lightly."

PanGenetics plans to in-license antibodies generated in external labs and move them into development. "We’ve looked at more than 50. Of those, we’ve whittled them down to half a dozen, three of which are a priority," Johnson said.

It also has a portfolio of antibodies that reverted to the company following its de-merger from Tanox. One, a chimeric antagonist directed against the CD40 antigen, had reached a Phase IIa trial in Crohn’s disease.

The company has developed a humanized successor, PG102, which now is in late preclinical development. It also is developing an anti-CD40 antibody with agonistic activity for oncology or infection, and an anti-CD86 antagonist for organ transplant rejection.

The company also has out-licensed a deimmunized version of the cytotoxic plant protein bouganin to Viventia Biotech Inc., of Toronto, which is developing the molecule in cancer indications.