Adagio Therapeutics

(Matthew Poor/Questex Media)

Adagio Therapeutics

Adagio Therapeutics is using monoclonal antibodies to stop and treat coronavirus now and in the future
CEO: Tillman Gerngross, Ph.D. 
Founded: 2020
Based: Waltham, Massachusetts

Clinical focus: .Adagio is working on antibodies that work by binding to a piece of the spike protein that is found on multiple coronaviruses

The scoop: Although vaccine development efforts against COVID-19 are moving at “warp speed,” it is uncertain how long vaccines will be able to protect people from infection, and some groups, including older or immunocompromised people, may not be able to receive a working vaccine at all, given the dropoff in efficacy that could happen with the current crop of vaccines.

Adagio is instead using the well-known safety profile of antibodies, which can be administered twice a year and could provide greater than 90% protection against SARS-CoV-2, the company believes.

What makes Adagio fierce: Adagio’s CEO and cofounder Tillman Gerngross, Ph.D., is pretty clear that antibodies are the way forward for treating and preventing this disease, over and above the current vaccine efforts.

“I would love for vaccines to be more effective and their responses more durable, but that’s simply not what to date we have seen in SARS-CoV-02. And we shouldn’t be that surprised, because in SARS-1 and MERS, we also saw efficacy being rather short-lived,” he said.

There is also the issue of side effects, which have loomed large in all current trial data out from vaccine hunters, which include fever, muscle pain, fatigue and injection reactions.

The answer, Gerngross says, is antibodies. Isolating potent antibodies from B cells, a process developed within the past decade, creates the only real “credible solution.” It’s why he chose this approach, also favored by Vir, Eli Lilly, Regeneron and AstraZeneca, but with “a very different angle.”

“When everyone else said 'Hey, let’s do something against SARS-CoV-02,' we felt, 'Well, hang on a second. This class of virus has been hitting the human populations for nearly two decades now, and we know there are viruses currently circulating in the bat population, prompting the question: Is there going to be another spillover [as there was with SARS-CoV-02]?'"

“We answer that question not with if, but with when. In the last 20 years we’ve seen two outbreaks, so the chance of another is very, very high. So we at the beginning said, 'We don’t just want to solve this problem, we want to solve the problem of the virus as a class.'”

The idea is to get the arduous R&D work done for the current virus, but use the technology from that to have a ready-made solution against the next outbreak from this class. “This is opposed to playing whack-a-mole every single time there’s a new pandemic that emerges,” Gerngross said.

Adagio is staying low-profile, fighting the good fight against the virus because it can and because it sees what it believes is the best path forward—not for 15 minutes of fame, or to gather up quick VC funds by jumping on the COVID bandwagon.

Vaccines have their place, but having additional prophylactic treatment options—for those who are older and may not get the full benefit of a vaccine, or those who do not want the potential side effects of a vaccine—“is very important and should not be overlooked,” Gerngross said.

The company's leading program is set for the clinic by the end of the year. 

Investors: The $50 million series A financing was drawn from Polaris Partners, Mithril Capital, Fidelity, OrbiMed, M28 Capital and GV.

Adagio Therapeutics