AbbVie Gets Experimental IPF Treatment DJS-002 in Acquisition

1st-in-class antibody targets LPAR1 protein thought to drive IPF progression

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by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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AbbVie’s portfolio of antibodies for the potential treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) now includes DJS-002 — a first-in-class antibody directed against lysophosphatidic acid receptor-1 (LPAR1), a protein thought to drive the progression of IPF and other fibrotic diseases.

This was made possible by AbbVie’s estimated $250 million acquisition of DJS Antibodies, a biotech company based in Oxford, England.

In the deal, AbbVie acquired DJS’ propriety HEPTAD platform for antibody discovery. HEPTAD promises to expand AbbVie’s capacity to develop antibodies against proteins that are inherently difficult to target, such as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that include LPAR1.

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

“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,” added Sedgwick.

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IPF is characterized by progressive scarring, or fibrosis, in the lungs. Over time, such scarring causes lung tissue to stiffen, making it harder for the lungs to expand. This, in turn, leads to shortness of breath and a variety of other respiratory symptoms.

DJS-002, DJS’ lead antibody candidate, was designed to specifically block the activity of LPAR1 without interfering with other proteins. These so-called off-target effects are a known caveat of prior small molecules targeting LPAR1.

Now, DJS will take advantage of AbbVie’s extensive expertise in treatment discovery to continue developing new antibodies for IPF and other fibrosis disorders. Its scientists are working to shed light on the biological intricacies of GPCRs and other proteins that are particularly difficult to target.

“DJS was built on the principles of scientific curiosity and an aspiration to discover clinically meaningful innovative medicines,” said David Llewellyn and Joe Illingworth, co-founders of DJS.

“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,” they added.

Per the terms of the acquisition, AbbVie is paying approximately $255 million in cash to DJS shareholders. These shareholders remain eligible to receive additional payments if certain milestones in the DJS-002 program are met.

According to the press release, AbbVie expects to retain all DJS employees and its facility in Oxford.

“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 program into the clinic and develop an exciting research center here in the UK,” Llewellyn and Illingworth said.

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