Denali expands antibody discovery deal with AbCellera

CEO of Denali Ryan Watts
Denali CEO Ryan Watts (Denali)

Denali Therapeutics has expanded its antibody discovery deal with AbCellera. The agreement tasks AbCellera with generating panels of antibodies for up to eight targets picked by Denali.

AbCellera wrapped up the first phase of its collaboration with Denali last year. That collaboration saw AbCellera search immune responses for naturally derived antibodies with specific binding properties against a neurodegenerative disease target of interest to Denali. 

With antibodies discovered by AbCellera now in Denali’s preclinical pipeline, the neurodegenerative disease specialist has firsthand experience of the merits of its partner’s platform and the antibodies it yields. That experience led to the new deal.

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“We continue to be impressed with the speed of discovery, the quality and the diversity of the antibodies AbCellera delivers,” Denali COO Alexander Schuth said in a statement.

In expanding the agreement, Denali has secured a source of antibodies against up to eight targets. Denali is paying a technology access fee and funding research, while committing to milestones and royalties, to secure the expanded relationship with AbCellera.

RELATED: Novartis inks 10-target antibody discovery deal with AbCellera

The expansion of the deal comes weeks after AbCellera struck a 10-target deal with Novartis. Talking at the time, AbCellera CEO Carl Hansen framed the Novartis agreement as an inflection point for his antibody R&D shop. Having made its name through single-target deals with GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Teva, Hansen saw Novartis as the start of AbCellera’s move into “extended access” agreements.

Landing the eight-target Denali deal adds weight to the view that AbCellera is at an inflection point. To support its growing workload, AbCellera moved into a 22,000-square-foot lab last year and plans to grow its headcount from 72 to around 100 by the end of 2019.

For Denali, the AbCellera deal provides it with a source of antibodies as it seeks to stock its pipeline with neurodegenerative disease prospects. Denali’s lead drugs are now in the clinic but it also has a clutch of early-stage programs coming down the pipe.

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