AbbVie links up with London VC firm to map out new anti-inflammatory companies

While AbbVie has mainly been garnering headlines for its cancer and neurological pipelines in recent months, the Big Pharma clearly still has an eye on the inflammatory market. Its latest move is a team-up with London-based venture fund Deep Science Ventures to create one or more companies targeting this therapy area.

AbbVie, which markets blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira and has blockbuster follow-ups in Rinvoq and Skyrizi, will first work with DSV to identify areas of unmet need in the inflammatory area. DSV will then recruit a founding analyst to lead further development on new, curative therapeutic approaches for each selected area.

“Approaches meeting the parties’ investment criteria will be spun out into new companies and both DSV and AbbVie will have the opportunity to provide pre-seed capital to the new companies at launch,” DSV explained in a release Nov. 28.

It marks the first corporate pharma collaboration for DSV, which operates across four sectors: agriculture, climate, computation and pharmaceuticals. The VC firm’s existing pharma-related portfolio includes a mixture of pre-seed and seeded companies ranging from next-generation CAR-T therapy developer Immtune to microbiome-focused CC Bio.

The partnership with AbbVie is “a statement of intent that represents our commitment to developing commercially-ambitious, transformative curative therapies,” Laura Fletcher, head of business development and strategic partnerships for pharma at DSV, said in the release. “AbbVie are the partner of choice within immunology due to their deep disease area expertise and track record as one of the leading pharma companies in external innovation.”

AbbVie is already a leader in the antiflammatory space, with its rheutamoid arthritis drug Rinvoq and plaque psoriasis therapy Skyrizi bringing in a combined $4.5 billion in 2021 sales. However, the company is looking for more immunology assets to help replace the coming sales loss from Humira, the company’s existing $20 billion-a-year blockbuster autoimmune therapy that is slated for patent expiration next year.

Against this backdrop, the company handed over $50 million upfront in May for Cugene’s top autoimmune asset.