Next for GlycoFi: Merck

Chris Anderson
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LEBANON, N.H.—January 23, 2006—Following quickly on the heels of major deals with Lilly and Merck, GlycoFi announced that it had successfully produced monoclonal antibodies with human sugar structures in yeast, dramatically improving their therapeutic efficacy. The work, which was performed with colleagues at Dartmouth College, was presented in the February issue of Nature Biotechnology.
LEBANON, N.H.—Just weeks after announcing a major collaboration and equity investment from Eli Lilly, glycan specialist GlycoFi hauled in its second big fish with the announcement that it had secured a multi-year research collaboration and strategic alliance with pharma powerhouse Merck & Co.
Exact financial terms of the deal were not released, though, like the Lilly deal, Merck will make an equity investment in GlycoFi, provide an upfront payment and will fund continuing research efforts taking place under the agreement. GlycoFi could also receive milestone payments and royalties on the sale of any commercialized products that result form their work.
"This recent alliance along with our earlier one with Lilly will keep us funded for a number of years," says James Posada, senior VP of  business and market development for GlycoFi. "We see a great opportunity to help Merck as they make a push into antibodies, plus we think we can benefit from their antibody platform, as well as their expertise in yeast-based protein production."
While specific therapeutic areas of the initial research were not released, Posada says much of the initial work will focus on optimizing Merck's vaccine candidates and other biological compounds.
Officials from Merck were not avaialbel for comment, though John Shiver, VP, vaccines and biologics research at Merck says in a prepared statement that "we are encouraged by the potential of the GlycoFi technology to optimize glycan structures and thereby the biologic properties of our drug candidates."
With Lilly and now Merck on board with their platform, GlycoFi has received two major endorsements for its research platform based on creating highly specified glycan structures aimed at optimizing the efficacy of therapeutic proteins. The company states that the advantage of its platform is its yeast strains produce proteins with one specific glycoform, while mammalian cell culture-based production methods will produce a range of glycoforms. Using its collection of glycoengineered yeast strains for binding to a protein, GlycoFi can produce a library of potential therapeutics using different glycan structures all on the same peptide backbone.
With the latest deal, Posada says the company's plate is full of major pharma customers, at least for the time being. Despite the scope of both deals, the company expects to add only a few researchers to its current staff of around 60.
While significant revenue streams from the recent deals are still years away, Posada says the company will look for current revenue streams though the licensing of its intellectual property. Still, the company intends to be selective in its approach.
"We are selectively looking at a few other opportunities right now," Posada notes. "But we want to make sure we pick the best compounds where we believe the use of technology could make the most impact."

Chris Anderson

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