Ligand Pharmaceuticals has announced the signing of an agreement with Ab Initio Biotherapeutics whereby Ligand will acquire Ab Initio for $12 million in cash. Ab Initio was a privately held antigen-discovery company based in South San Francisco, California. Antigen design and preparation are the first steps necessary for the discovery of therapeutic antibodies. Some antibody targets are particularly difficult and require a specialized approach to design, prepare and deliver an antigen to enable the successful discovery of an antibody drug candidate. This transaction will have minimal impact on Ligand’s future cost structure.
Ab Initio brings to Ligand a patented antigen technology that is synergistic with Ligand’s OmniAb® therapeutic antibody discovery platform. This new technology will provide Ligand’s current and potential new partners enhanced capabilities for the discovery of therapeutic antibodies against difficult-to-access cellular targets. In addition, Ab Initio has a collaboration agreement with Pfizer Inc. to discover novel therapeutic antibodies against an undisclosed target in the G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily. GPCRs comprise the largest class of therapeutic drug targets, with key regulatory roles ranging from cardiovascular biology to metabolic health. Under the agreement, Ligand is eligible to receive potential milestones and tiered royalties on potential future sales. Ab Initio also currently has two unpartnered preclinical programs focused on hematological malignancies and solid tumors.
"The Ab Initio technology is highly complementary to our OmniAb platform. Antigen generation is a required step in the antibody discovery process and some targets are very complex with the initial work of antigen design and preparation being difficult. By bolting on the proprietary antigen technology, Ligand will be able to more fully meet the needs of our partners," said John Higgins, Chief Executive Officer of Ligand. "Since Ligand’s acquisition of OmniAb in 2016, we have continued to augment the platform through additional internal R&D, partnering and supporting acquisitions such as OmniChicken and now Ab Initio. Ligand is providing a cutting-edge antibody discovery platform that provides considerable value to our current partners."
“Our vision at Ab Initio has been to build on prize-winning scientific breakthroughs in GPCRs by creating antigens that enable antibody discovery against this challenging, but rich family of therapeutic targets,” Kenneth Lin, CEO and co-founder of Ab Initio said. “I am extremely excited that Ab Initio will join Ligand and am proud of our entire team’s accomplishments. The OmniAb platform is a natural fit and will allow the Ab Initio technology to seed the broader industry with exciting new discovery programs.”