Kymab: Tom Shepherd explains why the 'Kymouse' is an excellent way of producing high quality antibodies




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Video title: Kymab: Tom Shepherd explains why the 'Kymouse' is an excellent way of producing high quality antibodies
Released on: October 19, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to Tom Shepherd, CBO of Kymab.
Kymab's Kymouse platform and technology
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BIO-Europe, in Duesseldorf 2011. On this show I have Tom Shepherd, who is Chief Business Officer at a company called Kymab based in Cambridge in the UK, welcome.
Tom Shepherd:
Thanks a lot, thanks for having me on this show.
Fintan Walton:
Pleasure. Tom, can you tell us a little bit about Kymab?
Tom Shepherd:
Kymab is a recent spin-out from the Sanger Institute in Cambridge based around the combination of the ES cell technologies of the institute, Professor Allan Bradley was the founder coupled with the antibody and immunology skills of Mike Owen who is the Chief Scientific Officer.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so obviously when you enter into the area of antibodies you have to bring something new to the table, so what is new? What is different? What's unique about Kymab?
Tom Shepherd:
Kymab is developing a new transgenic in vivo human antibody platform, the main difference has been antibody platforms and mouse models before the new thing that Kymab is bringing to it is that we are putting entire functional diversity of the genes involved in the human antibody response and to a mouse with the intention of creating a very broad spectrum of antibodies broader than that has been created in these kind of models before.
Fintan Walton:
So in the end you are producing mouse monoclonal antibodies but from a human re-variable regions?
Tom Shepherd:
Yes the mouse have been modified and that the they contain all of the various genes involved in the variable regions of antibodies and this is coupled to the constant region of a mouse antibody so that we have a proper immune response in the mouse, therefore when you immunize the mouse with an antigen or rather a drug target you will create a broad spectrum of human antibodies in the mouse which can then be taken forward into development later, so the mouse actually does the job of the rearrangements and everything that's necessary to come up with an optimum antibody.
Fintan Walton:
So it is actually human antibody that's produced there?
Tom Shepherd:
It's, the first antibody created is the human variable region which is what bends to the antigen and the most constant region, but then once that is identified that sequence is identified the most constant region is exchanged for our human constant regions so we have a fully humanized antibody.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so you go back into the normal way in which you'd produce monoclonal, humanized monoclonal antibodies?
Tom Shepherd:
Except it's fully human.
Fintan Walton:
Except it's fully human now. Okay, right without having to do a genetically engineered the variable reasons?
Tom Shepherd:
Yes, and there are many in vitro platforms that can be used to make human antibodies, but the beauty of using the mouse model is that the mouse has a in vivo system it's nature who optimizes the antibody for you so we end up with an optimum candidate and just to give you an example there are nine fully human antibodies approved by the FDA of which seven came from mouse models and two came from in vitro models. So we believe that the mouse is an excellent way of producing high quality antibodies and the Kymouse version the Kymouse we'll be having the full diversity of the human response therefore we think it will lead too much better for candidates.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so where are you in that research and development?
Tom Shepherd:
We are essentially about half way through the whole the project of creating the mouse model and we will have the platform available for commercial use towards the middle of next year that will be around we will be hoping to start commercial operations, we will have enough mouse to be able to do immunizations. The Kymouse is actually it's not a single strain of mouse it's a platform of different mouse and one of the additional or the benefits we are bringing because of our expertise in the ES cells is that once we have the mouse model the Kymouse with the full human background we will then rederive stem cells from it to create a new stem cell line which can then be manipulated directly in vitro to create knock-outs and knock-ins in various genetic modifications.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so just for the audience ES your first embryonic stem cells?
Tom Shepherd:
A most embryonic stem cells in this case, yes and the beauty of the knock-out is that sometimes mouse have a problem of the human target your vision to immunize is similar to our mouse structure because it's recognized itself by the mouse, so by having this knock-out technology available we can delete that mouse homolog and then when you immunize you will get a very good immune response without the complexities of self tolerance.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, all those things have to be considered of course.
Tom Shepherd:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
In the complexities of antibody production. So in the end you are basically creating a platform a new way in which companies and organizations can identify antibodies?
Tom Shepherd:
Yes, it's the platform we are hoping to partner widely both we will be encouraging academic access, but in additionally with pharma and biotech partners to help them find new antibody candidates for the drug pipeline.
Business model and partnering strategy
Fintan Walton:
So Tom, when it comes to the actual Kymouse itself is do companies, do you keep the Kymouse or do you give away the Kymouse, how does that work?
Tom Shepherd:
Okay, that's a good question, because it's a lot of companies have specific needs for healthy one to handle the projects, our view is it for smaller projects around at a specific target may be one or two different targets where we can collaborate closely with the company in that case we would keep the Kymouse in Kymab and we would have a collaborative structure where we worked with the partners targets and that would protect this as I see the smaller companies perhaps because it's less expensive way of dealing with it, but some of the larger companies who have broader strategies and antibodies have made it clear to us they would be very interested in having a Kymouse actually in their own laboratories with the freedom to work on targets that they choose to select and without being limited and we have made it clear that we have developed a business model that will allow them to do that.
Fintan Walton:
Because in the end most of your revenue will come from success?
Tom Shepherd:
Exactly the success of the platform both in our partner hands and also with our own pipeline.
Fintan Walton:
So the more people play with the mouse more likely you gonna get hit?
Tom Shepherd:
Yes exactly, so we will we definitely want to partner broadly and we are trying to have these flexible structure so that we can work with both the large companies and the companies with smaller pipelines.
Funding and investments
Fintan Walton:
Right, so let's just look at the company, because obviously creating such a platform is an expensive task?
Tom Shepherd:
Yes, it's so expensive.
Fintan Walton:
So how in these difficult times that Kymab managed to fund itself?
Tom Shepherd:
Well after the foundation in 2009 from the Sanger Institute the company was funded in 2010 with a very significant investment from the Wellcome Trust in fact using an approach that they had not used before in that they are they put in a 20 million pounds Series A into Kymab, but that 20 million was only from the Wellcome Trust they were the sole investor which was a new model for them and that's very important for Kymab because that gives us the solidity in the foundation to not only make this complex platform but also to commence our own drug discovery activities to make our strategy of being a platform to product company.
Commercialisation strategy for Kymab
Fintan Walton:
So Tom, how can you summarize the commercialization strategy for Kymab?
Tom Shepherd:
Well it's actually as I was saying we are a platform to product company and we have essentially two key aspects of our business, one is our own drug discovery which is the long-term strategy of the business and we want to develop our own pipeline of monoclonal antibody drugs, in addition we will be partnering the platform widely with the intention of first of all collaborations on a scientific basis which was academics and so on which will assist Kymab in finding targets, but on commercial side we will be partnering with pharma and biotech companies to bring in non-dilutive cash to the company to also assist our own drug discovery efforts, so the partnering will bring in revenues in the near-term that will help support the business.
Fintan Walton:
Excellent. Well Tom, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Tom Shepherd:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Tom Shepherd
Chief Business Officer
At the time of recording this PTV interview Tom Shepherd Chief Business Officer of Kymab. Dr. Shepherd has over 30 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry including CEO and executive business development roles in the USA, Europe and Australia. He has led multiple pharmaceutical asset and technology licensing transactions and has been responsible for strategic company-building acquisitions. He has also raised significant amounts of equity capital to build early stage companies in to sustainable commercial operations. Dr. Shepherd was previously CEO of CXR Biosciences and Neurotech S.A and Vice President Business Development at ICN Pharmaceuticals and Intrabiotics Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Shepherd was awarded a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Strathclyde in 1981 and completed the CEP programme at the London Business School in 1989.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Kymab
Kymab was founded in 2009 to develop a mouse-based human antibody discovery platform, the Kymouse, designed to have a superior repertoire of B-cell mediated immune responses to current in vivo systems. Kymab will use the Kymouse platform to discover and develop potent and selective therapeutic antibodies for development as biopharmaceuticals. The company raised "20m of equity financing from the investment division of the Wellcome Trust. The creation of the Kymouse platform relies on cutting edge molecular biology and sophisticated mouse ES cell manipulation that few groups in the world can perform. Kymab has benefited from the leading embryonic stem cell technology developed in the laboratory of Professor Allan Bradley, Emeritus Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge UK and co-founder of Lexicon Genetics. As a "platform to product" biopharmaceutical company Kymab's strategy is to use proprietary Kymouse transgenic antibody platform for the in-house development of a product portfolio and to partner with others to maximize its application in the development of novel therapeutics.