AvantGen Announces Licensing of Its Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies to IGM Biosciences for COVID-19 Therapy Development

AvantGen Announces Licensing of Its Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies to IGM Biosciences for COVID-19 Therapy Development

SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESSWIRE)–AvantGen, Inc., a San Diego-based biotechnology company with an array of technology platforms for antibody discovery and optimization, and novel NK and T cell engager generation, today announced licensing of a panel of its anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody clones to IGM Biosciences for COVID-19 therapy development.

Using its novel yeast display system and large diverse human antibody libraries, AvantGen has identified a panel of high affinity human monoclonal antibody clones that bind to two distinct epitopes on the receptor binding domain of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Upon binding, the antibodies block the spike protein from interacting with ACE2 and thereby prevent virus-induced cell-killing, also known as cytopathic effect. In addition, one group of antibody clones can also block ACE2’s interaction with SARS-CoV-1, indicating that the epitope recognized by this group of clones is conserved between SARS-CoV-1 and -2, potentially conferring broader neutralizing activity against this family of coronaviruses.

In a recognized animal model of SARS-CoV-2 infection, AvantGen’s lead candidate antibody has been shown to significantly reduce viral load in, and macrophage infiltration of, the lungs, as well as reduce disease severity. These findings have been published in Frontiers in Immunology (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.614256/full).

Under the licensing agreement, AvantGen grants IGM Biosciences the rights to convert the antibody clones into IgA or IgM format for further development for the treatment of COVID-19. AvantGen received an upfront payment from IGM Biosciences and is eligible to receive milestone and royalty payments.

“We are pleased to license these antibodies to IGM Biosciences for their further development using IGM Biosciences’ proprietary IgA or IgM formats”, said Dr. Xiaomin Fan, Founder, President and CEO of AvantGen, “Even with the recent Emergency Use Authorization of multiple vaccines, we believe there remains an urgent need for potent antibody therapies and prophylactics for immunocompromised patients who cannot mount an adequate immune response either to the vaccine or to subsequent viral infection. Our antibody clones in their original IgG format have shown potent neutralization activity in in vitro assays and, in the case of our lead clone, in an in vivo animal model. IGM’s platform enables the potential enhanced potency and broader cross-reactivity and neutralization offered by the IgA and IgM formats.”

“As IGM may be the only company in the world that is currently able to produce IgM antibodies with high yield and high quality, we feel a responsibility to explore the potential efficacy of these engineered antibodies in COVID-19 patients,” said Fred Schwarzer, CEO of IGM Biosciences. “We believe that our IgM antibodies may produce better binding, cross-reactivity and neutralization than the corresponding IgG antibodies. These advantages, in addition to our manufacturing capabilities and the panel of high affinity and neutralizing human monoclonal antibody clones discovered by AvantGen, underlie our belief that this collaboration may offer significant benefits to patients.”

About AvantGen

AvantGen, Inc is a leader in the use of yeast display technology for antibody discovery and optimization. Founded by experts in the creation of antibody discovery and optimization platforms, AvantGen excels in the rapid generation of antibodies for therapeutic, diagnostic and research tool applications. The Company’s platforms include a robust yeast display system, large natural human antibody database, fully human antibody libraries comprised of over 100 billion antibody clones displayed by yeast cells, NK and T cell engager technology, flow cytometry-based and other screening technologies, as well as novel methodologies for rabbit monoclonal antibody generation. These versatile platforms can be used to discover and optimize antibodies directed at specific disease targets, affinity mature existing antibodies to improve their binding properties and humanize antibodies to render non-human antibodies suitable for human therapeutic applications, as well as generate rabbit monoclonal antibodies for applications that need extremely high specificity, such as antibodies capable of distinguishing point mutations and post-translational modifications for IHC, and anti-idiotype antibodies for PK studies. AvantGen’s partners include pharmaceutical, biotech, diagnostic and government entities, many of which are repeat customers. For more information, visit www.avantgen.com.

About IGM Biosciences, Inc.

Headquartered in Mountain View, California, IGM Biosciences is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on creating and developing engineered IgM antibodies. Since 2010, IGM Biosciences has worked to overcome the manufacturing and protein engineering hurdles that have limited the therapeutic use of IgM antibodies. Through its efforts, IGM Biosciences has created a proprietary IgM technology platform for the development of IgM antibodies for those clinical indications where their inherent properties may provide advantages as compared to IgG antibodies.

IGM Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements, including statements relating to IGM’s plans, expectations and forecasts and to future events. Such forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the potential of, and expectations regarding, the antibodies licensed from AvantGen; the capabilities and potential benefits of, and expectations regarding, IGM’s technology, its IgM and IgA technology platform and AvantGen’s technology, both generally and specifically with respect to discovery, development, and manufacture of antibodies; the potential safety, potency and efficacy of such antibodies; and statements by IGM’s CEO and AvantGen’s Founder, President and CEO. Such statements are subject to numerous important factors, risks and uncertainties that may cause actual events or results to differ materially, including but not limited to: termination of the license agreement; IGM’s ability to successfully convert the antibody clones into IgA or IgM format; IGM’s ability to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of any antibodies developed using the licensed technology; IGM’s ability to successfully and timely advance any antibodies through preclinical studies and clinical trials; the risk that all necessary regulatory approvals cannot be obtained; the risk that the potential benefits of the antibodies developed using the licensed technology do not outweigh their costs; potential delays and disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and governmental responses to the pandemic on the collaboration and related efforts; IGM’s early stages of clinical drug development; risks related to the use of engineered IgM antibodies, which is a novel and unproven therapeutic approach; IGM’s ability to obtain additional capital to finance its operations, if needed; uncertainties related to the projections of the size of patient populations suffering from the diseases IGM is targeting; IGM’s ability to obtain, maintain and protect its intellectual property rights; developments relating to IGM’s competitors and its industry, including competing product candidates and therapies; general economic and market conditions; and other risks and uncertainties, including those more fully described in IGM’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), including IGM’s Annual Report on Form 10-K filed with the SEC on March 26, 2020, IGM’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q filed with the SEC on November 5, 2020, IGM’s Current Report on Form 8-K filed with the SEC on December 7, 2020 and in IGM’s future reports to be filed with the SEC. Any forward-looking statements contained in this press release speak only as of the date hereof, and IGM specifically disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statement, except as required by law.

Edward Little, Ph.D.,
Director of Business Development
Tel: 858-381-5214

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faq Want to learn more?

  • Why Yeast?

    Yeast, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae aka brewer’s yeast to be exact, has the best of both worlds as a model organism for drug discovery. In selecting the right model, two opposing factors are: 1) finding an organism that can be used cost-effectively and ethically, and 2) being physiologically relevant by having it as similar as humans, the intended patients. This is where yeast has all the advantages: 1) it is unicellular, grows incredibly fast at a doubling rate of 90 minutes, and is easy and safe (non-pathogenic) to culture, meanwhile 2) as a eukaryote it can properly express, fold, and glycosylate proteins such as antibodies similar to mammals.

  • Yeast is “similar” but not the same as in humans with regards to post-translation modification (PTM) of proteins such as glycosylation?

    Correct, there are slight differences in the PTM profiles of proteins expressed in yeast versus mammals. However, we recombinantly express our lead antibodies in HEK293 or CHO cells and rarely observe a loss in activity. This is in stark contrast with E. coli-based systems like phage or cell-free, where bacteria lack protein glycosylation machinery.

  • Is affinity maturation required after using one of your platforms?

    Due to our large size rationally-designed Germliner™ library collection coupled with our rapid cell sorting based screening, we consistently obtain single-digit and subnM affinity antibodies with optimal developable characteristics. Interestingly, our popular AvantGeneer affinity maturation platform has been frequently used to optimize client antibodies that were originally discovered with hybridoma and human transgenic mouse platforms.

  • My target is a GPCR. Will your platform work?

    We have had success with multi-transmembrane proteins such as GPCRs, by using virus-like-particles (VLPs), nanodiscs, and client-designed variants with increased solubility.

  • What materials should I provide?

    We typically use various amounts of biotinylated, DyLight™ 650 conjugated, and unlabeled antigens for all projects. It’s important that both labeled and unlabeled antigens are QC’ed by provider, third party, and/or AvantGen. >0.5 mg/mL concentration, >80% monomer percentage, and >90% purity. Preferred buffer is PBS and no tris-based buffers please.

    Estimated Material Amounts*

    Application Stage Discovery Affinity Maturation Rabbit mAb
    All stages 1.5-2 mg biotinylated or 2-3 mg unlabeled 0.5 mg biotinylated or 1 mg unlabeled 2 mg unlabeled and 1 mg biotinylated
    FACS and screening 0.5-1 mg biotinylated or 1-2 mg unlabeled 0.2-0.5 mg biotinylated or 0.5-1 mg unlabeled 1 mg biotinylated and 0.2 mg unlabeled
    Screening only 0.2 mg biotinylated or 0.2-0.5 mg unlabeled 0.2 mg biotinylated or 0.2-0.5 mg unlabeled 0.2-0.5 mg unlabeled

    *Assuming 50 kDa antigen. AvantGen can bioconjugate and QC as needed.

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