Lilly firms up Adimab R&D alliance, bringing its Ab platform in-house

Yeast-based platform has proved popular with biopharma customers.(Adimab)

Eli Lilly likes what it sees in Adimab's antibody R&D platform, opting to roll it out at sites in San Diego and New York to help its antibody discovery and optimization activities.

The big pharma group has been putting Adimab's technology through its paces since 2010, but the new technology transfer deal represents a step up in their collaboration, and adds another big pharma partner to Adimab's growing stable.

New Hampshire-based Adimab's chief executive Tillman Gerngross said the deal with Lilly is a prime example of its strategy—starting out with small collaborations to showcase its technology and then broadening the relationship, either doing partner-funded discovery or transferring the platform for internal use.

"Lilly has a strong foundation in protein-based therapeutics and excellent R&D capabilities," he commented. "We are delighted to see our platform in the hands of such a competent team."

Adimab has a yeast cell-based platform for discovering and producing antibodies that it says is faster and easier than conventional techniques such as phage display technology or making antibodies in animal systems.

Using the technology yeasts are generated which express full-length antibodies on their surfaces, and it can take as little as eight weeks to go from an antigen of interest to fully-characterized and targeted antibodies, according to the biotech. Lilly says the system has already given it "several undisclosed therapeutic candidates."

Lilly will be able to use the platform without restriction across any therapeutic area, and would also get exclusive rights to a custom human antibody library.

Adimab's platform has already been taken in-house by Merck, Novo Nordisk, Biogen and GlaxoSmithKline, and is being used in R&D programs at a couple of dozen other biopharma firms, including Celgene, Roche, Sanofi, Novartis, Gilead and Pfizer. The new deal with Lilly will bring the number of R&D sites using it to seven, said the company.

Lilly and Adimab aren't disclosing financial details of the agreement, but said the biotech would receive an upfront fee, milestone payments and royalties on any future product sales.

"We believe that adding the Adimab platform to our existing portfolio of capabilities is an important step for Lilly as we work to quickly and efficiently develop solutions that will make a positive impact on people's lives," said the big pharma's senior VP for biotechnology and immunology research, Thomas Bumol.