AbbVie acquires LifeArc portfolio company DJS Antibodies

antibody technology

AbbVie has acquired LifeArc’s portfolio company DJS Antibodies Limited, a privately-held UK-based biotechnology company dedicated to discovering and developing antibody medicines that target difficult-to-drug disease-causing proteins, such as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).

DJS’s lead program is DJS-002, a potential first-in-class lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) receptor 1 (LPAR1) antagonist antibody currently in investigational preclinical studies for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and other fibrotic diseases. 

IPF is an aggressive, high mortality disease caused by fibrotic scarring in the lungs and remains an area of high unmet medical need.

“We are excited to bring the innovative science behind DJS-002 and the talented team at DJS to AbbVie,” said Jonathon Sedgwick, 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, U.K.”

HEPTAD platform

LifeArc co-led the £6m ($6.8 million) series A financing in DJS Antibodies in 2020, recognizing the potential of its HEPTAD platform to discover next generation antibody therapeutics.

Under the terms of the agreement, AbbVie will pay DJS shareholders approximately $255 million in cash at closing for the acquisition of DJS. DJS shareholders remain eligible for potential additional payments upon the achievement of certain development milestones related to the success of the DJS-002 program. AbbVie said it anticipates retaining all current DJS employees and its facility in Oxford. 

“The acquisition of DJS by AbbVie recognizes DJS’ strong leadership and the potential of its  exceptional science. LifeArc is proud to have invested in DJS and supported its growth through scientific and strategic guidance,” said Clare Terlouw, head of LifeArc Ventures.

DJS’s proprietary HEPTAD platform is a potential novel approach to antibody discovery with specific capabilities targeting transmembrane protein targets. A key benefit of this acquisition is for AbbVie, through DJS, to access the HEPTAD platform as a complement to its current capabilities in biotherapeutics research. 

DJS will leverage AbbVie’s extensive drug discovery expertise to continue generating antibody therapeutics and novel biology insights against targets like GPCRs, which have previously been intractable to biologics approaches.  

“DJS was built on the principles of scientific curiosity and an aspiration to discover clinically-meaningful innovative medicines. We’ve been privileged to grow the company within the world-class scientific and entrepreneurial community of Oxford, from an initial concept through to a successful biotech comprising an extremely talented team,” said David Llewellyn and Joe Illingworth, co-founders of DJS. 

“The whole team is incredibly excited to take the next step in this journey with AbbVie as we work together to accelerate the translation of our lead programme into the clinic and develop an exciting research center here in the U.K.”

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