Adagio, 'firing on all cylinders,' grabs $80M for COVID-19 antibody

Concept of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19
Adagio may be zeroing in on SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—but its antibodies are designed to protect against other coronaviruses, too. (Maksim Tkachenko/iStock/Getty Images Plus)(Maksim Tkachenko / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

In a time when speed is of the essence, Adagio Therapeutics is gathering steam. It picked up $80 million to propel its COVID-19 antibody into the clinic next year, just four months after launching with $50 million and a plan to go after multiple members of the coronavirus family.

The company is developing its lead prospect, ADG20, for the prevention of COVID-19 infection, as well as for the treatment of patients who have fallen ill. It may be zeroing in on SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—but ADG20 and Adagio’s other antibodies are designed to protect against other coronaviruses, too. They bind to a piece of the spike protein that is found on multiple viruses, including SARS-CoV-1 and some coronaviruses circulating in bats.

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“By dealing with the broader coronavirus problem, we expect ADG20 to be more resistant to escape mutations and potentially cover future coronavirus pandemics,” said Krishna Yeshwant, managing partner at GV, which led the series B round.

Yeshwant sees ADG20 sitting right next to vaccines in the world’s arsenal against COVID-19 and future coronavirus pandemics. While vaccines stimulate the body to produce antibodies against a pathogen, prophylactic antibody treatments give people ready-made antibodies to fight off that pathogen. ADG20 could be particularly useful for vulnerable groups, like older or immunocompromised people, who may not be able to receive a vaccine.

Of Adagio’s other series A backers, Polaris Partners, Mithril Capital, Fidelity and OrbiMed came back for round two, while newcomers Population Health Partners and Omega Funds chipped in, too.

“In less than four months, we completed candidate optimization, selected our lead antibody ADG20, established a manufacturing agreement to ensure global supply, and completed the production runs for ADG20 to be used in our upcoming clinical trials,” Adagio CEO Tillman Gerngross, Ph.D., said in a statement.

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“Further, our team has received positive feedback from the FDA, allowing us to proceed to our first-in-human study in early 2021. Adagio is firing on all cylinders and we look forward to continued, rapid progress over the next year,” Gerngross added.

Adagio is among several biopharma companies taking the antibody route against COVID-19, including Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca.

Eli Lilly is working on a single antibody with Junshi and an antibody cocktail with AbCellera. The National Institutes of Health started testing the latter in hospitalized patients this summer but stopped enrolling patients in October when an independent data monitoring board deemed it unlikely to improve outcomes in the studied patient population. That didn't stop the FDA from giving the drug, known as bamlanivimab or LY-CoV555, an emergency nod on Tuesday, albeit with caveats.

That same month, Regeneron reported results for its two-antibody cocktail in hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients and got a recommendation from its own independent data monitoring board to roll back the sickest patients in the trial.

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