J&J incubator alumnus Ab Initio inks GPCR antibody deal with Pfizer

This builds on a GPCR deal Pfizer signed with U.K.'s Heptares last year

South San Francisco’s I/O biotech Ab Initio has penned a deal with Big Pharma Pfizer that will help fund the fledging company’s platform expansion.

Ab Initio, which came out of Johnson & Johnson’s Bay Area biotech incubator program just last year, has joined with Pfizer to “discover novel therapeutic antibodies against an undisclosed target in the G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily.”

A high percentage of today’s prescription drugs target one or more GPCRs, with some estimates ranging between 30% to 50%. They have regulatory roles in physiological processes ranging from cardiovascular biology to metabolic health.


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Under the deal, money terms of which have not been disclosed, Ab Initio will use its GPCR antibody discovery platform to help engineer antibodies that activate the targeted GPCR.

In return, Pfizer gets exclusive, worldwide rights to develop and commercialize any GPCR activator antibodies against this target that comes out of the collab.

Ab Initio gets an upfront fee and research support, although details were not given on its dollar value, with biobucks also lined up. Pfizer is in addition making a “strategic investment” in Ab Initio as part of the deal.  

“We are pleased to partner with Pfizer as we seek to further validate the potential of our platform for discovering antibody-based drugs against the GPCR family,” said Kenneth Lin, president and CEO of Ab Initio.

“Pfizer shares our vision for generating new therapies for inadequately addressed diseases, and we welcome them to our select group of investors.”

This builds on a deal Pfizer made a year ago, with U.K.-based former Fierce 15 winner Heptares, to work on up to 10 different GPCRs, targeting a superfamily of the cell signaling proteins. This deal saw an undisclosed upfront payment, and up to $189 million in milestones per target.

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