Computer-based discovery biotech from Israel lands in Bay Area

Tel Aviv-based Compugen has opened shop in a promised land of biotech, South San Francisco. The specialist in computer-based discovery of drug targets says that the new location puts the company in the birthplace of the industry, and it's already recruited new biotech talent from the Bay Area to aid its efforts to discover antibody drugs against its targets.

Compugen ($CGEN) named Mary Haak-Frendscho, formerly of Takeda Pharmaceutical's San Francisco shop, as executive chairperson. And John Hunter, previously a senior director at the biotech Xoma ($XOMA), has been tapped to lead Compugen's South San Francisco office as vice president of antibody R&D.

Compugen, which is focused on discovery of monoclonal antibodies in cancer and immunology, lands in the Bay Area after grabbing $8 million in research funding from Israel's Baize Investments in December, according to the company's press release. The office offers access to ample biologics talent and infrastructure that the company hopes will enable rapid development of new antibody drugs against internally discovered targets, and the intent is to use the operation to conduct more research internally than before.

Rather than starting its discovery efforts in a wet lab, Compugen plugs in its computational platform. The platform involves computer algorithms that predict surface membrane proteins that could serve as targets for antibody drugs. Later in the discovery process, the company validates the computer-based findings in lab experiments. Its strategy is to discover drugs that can then be licensed to other companies.

"We … look forward to leveraging the commercial potential of these pioneering and industry leading predictive discovery capabilities by licensing out--at significantly greater values--the differentiated [monoclonal antibody] product candidates against these novel targets, rather than the targets," Anat Cohen-Dayag, president and CEO of Compugen, stated.

- here's Compugen's release