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

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

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, 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.”

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