Roche boosts its antibody arsenal with a $489M buyout

Roche ($RHHBY) is betting big on antibodies that can attack two targets at once, signing on to buy Austria's Dutalys for as much as $488.8 million and get its hands on some proprietary technology.

Under the deal, Roche will hand over $133.8 million up front with the promise of up to $355 million more tied to undisclosed development milestones. In exchange, the Swiss drugmaker gets DutaMab, Dutalys' platform for discovering and developing bi-specific antibodies, which can bind to multiple antigens at the same time.

Traditional bi-specific antibodies are crafted by fusing fragments of two antibodies and stitching them together with unnatural linkers, Dutalys said, a process that can lead to problems with stability and manufacturing. DutaMab, in contrast, allows for the development of fully human antibodies in which each arm can bind to both targets, the biotech said. That makes for a more predictable product with applications in diseases previously unaddressable by bi-specific antibodies, according to Dutalys.

And the technology will fit right in at Roche, pRED chief John Reed said. The company has been in the monoclonal antibody game for years, and DutaMab will complement its own bi-specific development system, called CrossMAb.

"The platform developed by Dutalys is a breakthrough technology, and we are excited about integrating it within Roche," Reed said in a statement. "It strengthens our R&D capabilities in delivering bi-specific antibodies, which have the potential to create transformational new medicines."

Roche and its Genentech subsidiary have a storied history of turning promising antibodies into landscape-altering medicines, successfully developing Rituxan, Avastin, Perjeta, Kadcyla, Gazyva and others. Behind those blockbuster therapies is a pipeline with scores of antibody treatments designed to treat cancer, coronary disease, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's.

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