SAN FRANCISCO—Looking to be one of the companies to finally put a dent in the health impact of Alzheimer’s disease, Alector LLC recently announced a collaborative research agreement facilitated by the California Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centers. Under the agreement, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.—a Johnson & Johnson company—will fund research in one of Alector’s targets through proof-of-concept disease models and will retain a time-limited option to negotiate a commercial agreement.
“As part of our strategy to engage large pharma partners early in the discovery process, we are delighted to collaborate with Johnson & Johnson Innovation on this program,” said Dr. Arnon Rosenthal, president and CEO of Alector, in the announcement of the deal. “It exemplifies how large pharma companies can access early-stage exploratory, high-risk/high-reward programs.”
Added Dr. Tillman Gerngross, chairman of Alector’s board of directors: “This agreement provides Alector with a lot of options while helping to reduce our burn rate; a win-win for both parties.”
Alector describes its work as “combining state-of-the-art antibody technology and recent discoveries in neuroimmunolgy and human genetics to develop novel therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia and mechanistically related neurodegenerative disorders.”
The company’s stated strategy is to efficiently generate and validate antibody drugs with unique functional properties that engage key disease-altering targets, and to that end, Alector reports it is currently developing leads for four major targets and anticipates taking two of these through preclinical development and IND-enabling studies within the next couple years
For the Johnson & Johnson-based deal, Alector is targeting key components of the pathological pathways that underlie Alzheimer’s disease using state-of-the-art monoclonal antibody technology, an effort that is—like much of the rest of its work—facilitated in part by a strategic alliance with Adimab LLC, which Alector describes as “the industry’s premier yeast display antibody company” and an “industry leader in discovery and optimization of antibody therapeutics.”
Alector touts not just this strategic alliance but also its own “highly integrated and lean biotechnology structure,” noting that it also makes use of extensive outsourcing to support its core scientific and management teams.
As for the Adimab strategic alliance, that—like the Johnson and Johnson deal—is fairly new. It was just in January of this year that Adimab announced three new collaborative partnerships, one of them being Alector and the other two being Jounce Therapeutics and Five Prime Therapeutics Inc. Adimab says all three collaborations are structured as “funded discovery deals whereby each partner may provide multiple targets to Adimab for the discovery and optimization of therapeutic monoclonal or bispecific antibodies.”
Gerngross, who is co-founder and CEO of Adimab in addition to his board position with Alector, said back in January, “Adimab is focused on partnering with the best drug developers in the world, whether they are major pharmaceutical companies or smaller biotech companies. We try to be flexible in structuring partnerships to ensure that we can work with the smartest and most experienced teams that are well positioned to take advantage of Adimab’s unique capabilities. Jounce, Five Prime and Alector are good examples of that.”