Abeome Corp. is looking to make its mark in monoclonal antibodies using its platform for accessing MAbs discovered by Richard Meagher, a professor in the University of Georgia's department of genetics.
The Athens, Ga.-based company was founded in November 2002 by Meagher, who is chief scientific officer; his colleague, Cliff Baile; and Vince La Terza, who is CEO. The three are gaining incentive from such successful, approved antibodies as IDEC Pharmaceuticals Corp. and Genentech Inc.'s Rituxan for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Genentech and F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.'s Herceptin, a humanized antibody for breast cancer.
"The ultimate ambition is moving from DNA sequences and a lot of protein information to make antibodies," La Terza told BioWorld Today.
Abeome uses its Genome-Antibody-Proteome platform, which has as its centerpiece Direct Selection of Hybridomas, or DISH, designed to rapidly screen for and isolate cells that produce antibodies.
La Terza said the typical method of finding MAbs involves a step to "dilute out" hybridoma cells, a process that may result in desired cells being destroyed or missed. DISH has enabled Abeome to produce cells that "consistently and reliably secrete and surface-present antibodies," the company said.
"Most hybridoma cells do not surface-present antibody," Meagher said. "Since the Abeome cells do, we can exploit state-of-the-art screening and selection technologies such as FACS, magnetic beads or biopanning to rapidly isolate cells that make desired antibodies."
The DISH platform and resulting strategies for isolating cells make finding antibodies a process of "days" rather than "weeks and weeks," La Terza said.
In March, Abeome reported that it had secured an additional $1.5 million in seed financing from two Athens investors, who also happened to provide most of the company's initial financing of $250,000 last year, bringing the total raised to date to $1.75 million. New investors include Kirby Alton, a Georgia native who ended a long career at Amgen Inc. in 1999 as senior vice president for product development, Abeome said.
The recent angel funding should carry the company almost two years, or perhaps "indefinitely," La Terza said, if the company can begin generating revenue soon, as it expects.
"We're not a typical biotech company raising tens of millions of dollars," he said. Abeome's "early strategy of revenue generation is to create antibodies for research," for genomics companies, for example.
"They want [antibodies] and they want them quickly," La Terza said, explaining that Abeome "anticipates being able to sell antibodies in six months." Another strategy relates to drug discovery companies, which could bring their proteins to Abeome in order to try to make antibodies.
"We would sublicense our technology to target discovery companies," La Terza said, noting that strategy would generate fees and downstream payments.
A third commercialization strategy is to make proteins in order to develop them into diagnostics or therapeutics. For example, La Terza noted that Herceptin can be used both to diagnose breast cancer and to treat the disease.