2022-10-21| M&A

AbbVie Buys DJS Antibodies For $255 Million To Beef Up Immunology Portfolio

by Joy Lin
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AbbVie has nabbed preclinical biotech DJS Biotech for $255 million in cash in the hopes that DJS’ transmembrane protein targeting platform can complement its capabilities in biotherapeutics research. 

The buyout gives AbbVie DJS’ lead program DJS-002, a lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) receptor 1 (LPAR1) antagonist antibody indicated for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and other fibrotic diseases. DJS-002 is currently in the IND-enabling phase of development. 

Beyond the initial payout, DJS shareholders could potentially receive additional payments if DJS-002 reaches certain development milestones. The company’s staff and facility will remain in Oxford, AbbVie said. 

DJS was founded in 2014 by Oxford Science Enterprises and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, along with LifeArc, Sedgwick Yard, and Amgen Ventures. 

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Targeting LPA1 To Treat IPF

IPF is an aggressive disease caused by scarring in the lungs, which on average leads to death in three to five years after diagnosis. 

There is no cure for the disease, which is widely regarded to be terminal, but anti-fibrotic treatments — designed to slow disease progression — such as nintedanib and pirfenidone have been approved by the US FDA. In the clinic, Bristol Myers Squibb’s Phase 2 LPA1 antagonist BMS-986020 has been shown to reduce biomarker levels which are correlated with lung fibrosis improvement. 

To treat IPF, DJS is leveraging its HEPTAD platform to discover antibodies that target GPCRs. Besides DJS-002, the company has three other assets: DJS-001 for myeloid cell inflammatory disease which is in the candidate selection phase; DJS-003 and DJS-004 which are in the discovery phase. 

“We are excited to bring the innovative science behind DJS-002 and the talented team at DJS to AbbVie,” said Jonathon Sedgwick, Ph.D., vice president and global head of discovery research, AbbVie. 

“This acquisition will deliver new capabilities to enhance our current antibody research activities, an opportunity to strengthen our immunology portfolio, and provide a strong foothold for expanded research efforts in the dynamic bioscience hub in Oxford, UK,” said Sedgwick.

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