GlaxoSmithKline, Biogen Idec strike antibody deals with biotech startup Adimab

Adimab has landed its two biggest licensing deals to date, and the undisclosed payments from the pacts have pushed its antibody-discovery business far into profitability.

Tillman Gerngross--Courtesy of Dartmouth

In the pair of separate deals, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Biogen Idec ($BIIB) have become the first two biopharma outfits to gain licenses to bring Adimab's discovery technology in-house. The Lebanon, NH-based company has scored undisclosed upfront payments as well as promised future fees and the potential to reap financial rewards based on the success of drugs that GSK and Biogen discover with its technology.

Co-founded by antibody expert and CEO Tillman Gerngross in 2007, Adimab has pioneered a yeast-based method for rapidly discovering human antibodies. Polaris Venture Partners, Google Ventures, SV Life Sciences, Borealis Ventures and OrbiMed have pumped shy of $60 million into Adimab. The startup has scored contracts to perform discovery services for Merck ($MRK), Eli Lilly ($LLY), Novo Nordisk ($NVO), Roche ($RHHBY), Novartis ($NVS), Gilead ($GILD), Kyowa Hakko Kirin.

Those previous pacts were different because the companies would typically let Adimab take on the discovery work in Adimab's labs, whereas Biogen and GSK now have the keys to the startup's discovery engine for use in their own labs. While those deals provided early revenue for Adimab, the major pacts with London-based Glaxo and Weston, MA-based Biogen bring the company to a new level, Gerngross says. This year the 70-person company expects its expenses to be $15 million to $20 million, with revenue coming in at more than three times as much money.

Gerngross expects to pay his shareholders a dividend, which is almost unprecedented for biotech outfits of Adimab's age. And by the end of next year he expects to have given investors a full return on the capital they have invested.

"Our intent is to take that money and give it to shareholders," Gerngross said. "In short, we will be one of the few dividend-paying venture-backed companies."

Many of Adimab's investors previously backed Gerngross's earlier biotech company, GlycoFi, which Merck acquired in 2006 for $400 million. It seems like they are well on their way to being rewarded for their faith in Adimab, a 2010 Fierce 15 company.

- here's the GSK deal release
- and the Biogen deal release
- see Xconomy's coverage

Special Report: Adimab - 2010 Fierce 15