ABclonal Uses Fresh Funds to Buy Antibody CRO

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Boston-based ABclonal Biotechnology acquired contract research organization (CRO) Yurogen Biosystems, headquartered in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts. Yurogen focuses on producing antibodies and antibody-based products for its clients. Its technology platform is a monoclonal antibody discovery program using single-B-cell-based SMab. This technology platform allows for high-throughput development of high-affinity, high-specificity monoclonal antibodies. No financial details were disclosed.

Late in February, ABclonal, which calls itself a global life sciences tools and services provider, completed a Series C financing round worth $92.9 million. It was led by Sequoia Capital China and healthcare-focused investors LYFE Capital. New and existing shareholders included Sigma Square Capital, Kinghall Ventures and Lucion Capital.

ABclonal Biotechnology is the parent company of Massachusetts-based research and diagnostic reagents manufacturer, ABclonal Technology. It plans to use the funds to accelerate its research and development pipeline for in vitro diagnostic raw materials and also expand production capabilities of its research reagents and services.

“At ABclonal, it has always been our goal to provide high-quality, innovative products for researchers worldwide,” said Zack Wu, ABclonal’s chief executive officer. “Reagent quality determines the effectiveness of downstream therapeutic and diagnostic applications. Similarly, innovations in reagents and raw materials provide the foundation for technological breakthroughs in the life science industry. The new funding allows us to continue to expand and innovate biology reagent products at a faster pace.”

At the time, the company reported it was in talks to acquire “a contract research organization focused on single-cell-based monoclonal antibody development.” It was the first step for using the funds raised from the Series C.

ABclonal Technology launched a collaboration with Yurogen in 2017. ABclonal said it was Yurogen’s high-quality products and innovation that were behind the initial collaboration and today’s acquisition announcement. The deal allows ABclonal to manufacture recombinant rabbit monoclonal antibodies using Yurogen’s SMab.

“Recombinant monoclonal antibodies are the future of diagnostic and pharmaceutical research,” stated Wu. “In the medical research community, there is an increasing need for reagents with little to no batch-to-batch variation because of the rising demand for experiment replicability.”

Wu added, “Traditional antibodies such as polyclonal antibodies and hybridoma-based monoclonal antibodies simply cannot meet the requirements in the market. Because of that, the industry is experiencing an important transformation—a shift from traditional rabbit polyclonal antibodies and mouse hybridoma toward recombinant monoclonal antibodies.”

ABclonal Biotechnology indicated that it plans to invest $30 million over the next three years to launch more than 10,000 new recombinant rabbit monoclonal products. They will be available for a broad range of research areas, including neurobiology, developmental biology, immunology, and various diagnostic platforms such as enzyme-linked immunoassay, colloidal gold, chemiluminescence, and flow cytometry.

Recombinant antibodies are more stable than polyclonal antibodies and hybridoma-based monoclonal antibodies. They can also be produced at scale independent of animals. Rabbits are used in the initial processes, which creates antibodies with high affinity, strong specificity, and broad diversity.

Antibodies developed under their three-year program will be screened and validated using knockout validation. This maintains the quality of raw materials in in vitro diagnostics and biopharma development. In knockout validation, they confirm antibody specificity by testing it on a knockout sample or cell line that does not express the target protein. This is performed alongside a normal (wildtype) cell line. The target protein does not appear in the knockout sample or cell line because the gene for that protein was inactivated (“knocked out”) by replacing or disrupting the DNA. The data is then compared if and if the antibody is specific, no detection will be seen in the knockout sample or cell line but there will be specific detection in the normal cell line.

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