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GSK buys antibody firm Domantis for

Published on 11/12/06 at 11:07am

GlaxoSmithKline has bought Cambridge-based antibody firm Domantis for £230 million.

Domantis, a leader in developing the next generation of antibody therapies, will become part of GSK's Biopharmaceuticals Centre for Drug Excellence (CEDD) and continue to operate from its Cambridge laboratories.

The deal will more than double GSK's R&D stable, but one analyst believes the company is taking a risk.

According to Reuters, Domantis has only raised $83 million from venture capital backers since its launch in 2000.

Industry analyst Ben Yeoh at Dresdner Kleinwort said that although GSK was acquiring interesting technology, it would not provide any commercial rewards for many years.

However, Mike Owen, senior vice president of Biopharmaceuticals CEDD, said: "Domantis has pioneered the extension of antibody therapies to potentially far wider applications than has been possible with conventional monoclonal antibodies."

He added: "Its talent and world-leading technology will complement the work we are already taking forward in the CEDD to put our company at the forefront of biotechnology."

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-engineered versions of the antibodies found in the natural immune system and can bind with precision to targets in the body. The problem so far has been their large molecular size, and current marketed therapeutic antibodies have to be given by injection or infusion.

Domantis has been a pioneer in the next-generation of antibody therapy, which is based on the smallest functional binding units of human antibodies, known as dAbs.

They can be given in inhaled, topical and potentially oral formulations, as well as by injection and infusion. The new technology also enables dAbs to serve as a building block for therapy directed simultaneously at more than one disease target.

At present, research at Domantis is looking at rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and multiple myeloma.

The GSK takeover follows promising results following Domantis' collaboration with Essex-based Argenta over their innovative COPD antibody drug.

It is still early days for the dAb, but the companies say first studies of the drug in humans show it to be superior to existing therapy. Further studies of the dosing range of the product are under way and it is expected to enter clinical development sometime in 2007.

Dr Ian Tomlinson, formerly from the Medical Research Councils Laboratory of Molecular Biology and now chief scientific officer at Domantis, said: "The acquisition of Domantis by GSK highlights the tremendous potential and value of dAb products and provides the funding and capabilities to advance a large number of dAb products through clinical testing."

He added: "Combining the core protein-engineering capabilities, technology and commercial strength of GSK creates an opportunity to advance biopharmaceuticals on a global scale."


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