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3 November, 2021 - 19:47 By Tony Quested

IONTAS wins lucrative deal with Bristol Myers Squibb

Antibody therapeutics company IONTAS has secured a potentially lucrative licensing agreement with Bristol Myers Squibb Company deploying its proprietary mammalian display.

Cambridge-based IONTAS will receive an upfront payment for accessing the technology platform and will work with Bristol Myers Squibb in establishing the platform within its facilities. 

Additional near-term payments include maintenance fees, the achievement of development milestones, and eventual royalty payments on all antibodies derived from the platform. No figures are being disclosed.

IONTAS’ proprietary mammalian display technology enables large libraries of full-length antibodies to be expressed on the surface of mammalian cells in a way that allows selection for optimal binding properties and optimal biophysical properties.

These benefits can significantly reduce the risk of antibodies failing during the expensive manufacturing stages. Effectively the platform allows the right lead antibodies to be selected early in the discovery process, reducing the requirement for any potentially costly re-engineering to correct developability issues.

John McCafferty, chief scientific officer of IONTAS and inventor of the platform, said: “We are excited to have Bristol Myers Squibb, one of the globally leading biopharmaceutical companies, as our licensing partner.

“Our mammalian display system not only allows the screening of tens of millions of clones directly for binding but also has a unique advantage to detect developability issues.

“This allows us to ’fix’ problematic antibodies and identify them during early drug discovery. This can save the industry significant time and money by generating developable products faster.”

McCafferty was co-discoverer of antibody phage display for which Professor Greg Winter was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018. 

IONTAS started operations in October 2012 by offering antibody discovery services via phage display. From the outset the company re-invested profits to increase the efficiency of antibody drug discovery process and to develop other display technologies.

This resulted in the development of Mammalian Display, a novel platform for identifying high affinity, developable lead antibody candidates.

Portugal-based FairJourney Biologics and IONTAS combined capabilities in 2020 as a fee-for-service antibody discovery company. 

The combined operations allow a complete offering around antibody discovery. The team of more than 100 scientists, anchored in a high-profile network of advisers, has successfully completed more than 500 projects with over 100 biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

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