BioWorld International Correspondent

Swedish antibody specialist BioInvent International AB is cutting almost 20 percent of its workforce, in a move it said will yield annual savings of approximately SEK2 million (US$250,000) from the first quarter of next year.

The reductions - from 130 employees to 105 - will affect all areas of the company, CEO Svein Mathisen told BioWorld International, including research and development, manufacturing and administration. "We will review some of our capacity when it comes to contract research," Mathisen said.

Lund-based BioInvent also is increasing its focus on proprietary drug development. Its current portfolio includes programs in cancer, atherosclerosis and HIV. "We would like to strengthen that portfolio by adding new projects," Mathisen said. "We are evaluating a certain number of interesting targets."

BioInvent's existing projects are all still at the preclinical stage. The company's primary platform is its n-CoDeR gene library, which contains some 20 billion human antibody genes.

Its HIV program is based on the development of a therapeutic antibody that binds to a highly conserved epitope found on the HIV-1 Tat protein, which plays a role in replication. In atherosclerosis, it aims to develop an antibody that binds an oxidized form of apoprotein B100, a component of low-density lipoprotein thought to play a role in the inflammatory process that contributes to plaque formation. Its cancer program is based on a target associated with angiogenesis it licensed from the Karolinksa Institute in Stockholm. That protein, angiomotin, binds the angiogenesis inhibitor angiostatin and appears to regulate endothelial cell migration.

All of the projects are at the lead-selection stage, Mathisen said. A fourth program, in B-cell lymphoma, is undergoing target validation. BioInvent plans to partner out its internal programs early on, either in late preclinical or early clinical development. Based on that strategy, it will not need to raise further cash, Mathisen said. The company had SEK319.3 million (US$39.4 million) in cash at June 30.

In addition to its internal projects, BioInvent has entered co-development agreements and manufacturing agreements with a range of partners, including Oxford GlycoSciences, now owned by Celltech Group plc of Slough, UK; GlaxoSmithKline plc, of London; ImmunoGen Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.; and Ingeneon AG, of Vienna, Austria.

Although the news led to a sharp increase in the volume of BioInvent shares traded on the Stockholm stock exchange last week, it had little effect on the share price. BioInvent closed Friday at SEK12.90, having opened the week at SEK12.70.

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