Media Releases

Antibody Network, Celgene partner to develop cancer drugs

September 16, 2015

First industry partnership for Recombinant Antibody Network will enable development of novel therapeutics

Toron­to, ON — A new col­lab­o­ra­tion between Cel­gene Corp. and the Recom­bi­nant Anti­body Net­work (RAN), a con­sor­tium com­pris­ing research groups from UC San Fran­cis­co, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, will sup­port the devel­op­ment of next-gen­er­a­tion, anti­body-based can­cer ther­a­pies.

In this first indus­try part­ner­ship for the RAN, Cel­gene will pro­vide $25 mil­lion in fund­ing over the next three years and will have the option to enter into an exclu­sive license agree­ment to devel­op and com­mer­cial­ize promis­ing ther­a­peu­tic anti­bod­ies to can­cer-relat­ed tar­gets.

“The RAN con­sor­tium has devel­oped an auto­mat­ed, anti­body engi­neer­ing pipeline that enables high-through­put gen­er­a­tion and val­i­da­tion of high-per­for­mance recom­bi­nant antibodies,at an unpreci­dent­ed scale” said James Wells, PhD, one of the found­ing mem­bers of the RAN and a pro­fes­sor of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal chem­istry in the UCSF School of Phar­ma­cy. “This is a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to part­ner with a top bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny to exploit these capa­bil­i­ties on extra­cel­lu­lar tar­gets in the dis­cov­ery and devel­op­ment of new drugs for treat­ing can­cer.”

Over the past decade, anti­bod­ies have emerged as the major break­through in tar­get­ed can­cer ther­a­py and are now the fastest grow­ing class of ther­a­peu­tic mol­e­cules. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, anti­body devel­op­ment remains an impre­cise sci­ence, con­duct­ed on a case-by-case basis.

To address the unmet need for an effi­cient pipeline for renew­able anti­body dis­cov­ery, Wells co-found­ed the RAN with two oth­er vet­er­ans from the for­mer Pro­tein Engi­neer­ing Depart­ment at Genen­tech Inc. Sachdev Sid­hu, PhD, now a pro­fes­sor of mol­e­c­u­lar genet­ics at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, and Antho­ny Kos­si­akoff, PhD, pro­fes­sor of bio­chem­istry and mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, have teamed with Wells to make auto­mat­ed, large-scale anti­body pro­duc­tion a real­i­ty. The RAN gen­er­ates recom­bi­nant anti­bod­ies from cloned syn­thet­ic genes that are select­ed for high per­for­mance.

“We cre­at­ed the RAN to address a large, unmet need in both research tools and ther­a­peu­tic anti­body devel­op­ment,” said Dr. Kos­si­akoff, from UChica­go. “The RAN will con­tin­ue to solve the prob­lems that are inher­ent in tra­di­tion­al anti­body approach­es, and help to expand treat­ments for a vari­ety of dis­eases, includ­ing can­cer.”

Dur­ing the past decade, the researchers have devel­oped new meth­ods to rapid­ly and reli­ably pro­duce large libraries of recom­bi­nant anti­bod­ies, which are tai­lored, syn­thet­ic anti­bod­ies cre­at­ed in vit­ro that con­sis­tent­ly show high per­for­mance. Using fund­ing from the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, the RAN has com­plet­ed an ambi­tious project that has pro­vid­ed thou­sands of high-qual­i­ty anti­bod­ies tar­get­ing hun­dreds of human tran­scrip­tion fac­tors – the sig­nal­ing mol­e­cules that cells use to con­trol when and how their genes pro­duce pro­teins — which pre­vi­ous­ly have been par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing to tar­get with anti­bod­ies. The robot­ic RAN sys­tem enables researchers to select these anti­bod­ies effi­cient­ly at a broad scale to begin to approach the lev­el of the pro­teome – the full sys­tem of pro­teins found in a human or organ­ism.

On the heels of this suc­cess, the col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cel­gene will apply this sys­tem­at­ic approach to sig­nal­ing pro­teins on the cell’s sur­face that dri­ve can­cer and immuno­log­i­cal dis­ease. The RAN also will lever­age col­lab­o­ra­tions with aca­d­e­m­ic groups to engi­neer anti­bod­ies for basic bio­log­i­cal research and for devel­op­ing nov­el treat­ments for can­cer and oth­er dev­as­tat­ing dis­eases.

“Through this part­ner­ship, we are tak­ing a giant step for­ward in the ulti­mate goal of the RAN: the sys­tem­at­ic tar­get­ing of the “extra-cel­lu­larome,” the cell-sur­face pro­teins that con­trol can­cer and oth­er dis­eases,” said Sid­hu, who also leads the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Cen­tre for the Com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Anti­bod­ies and Bio­log­ics . “In the near future, we envi­sion that we will be able to pre­cise­ly tar­get any can­cer at the mol­e­c­u­lar lev­el, which will pro­vide bet­ter ther­a­pies for patients and greater peace of mind for their fam­i­lies.”

About UC San Fran­cis­co UCSF is the nation’s lead­ing uni­ver­si­ty exclu­sive­ly focused on health. It is ded­i­cat­ed to trans­form­ing health world­wide through advanced bio­med­ical research, grad­u­ate-lev­el edu­ca­tion in the life sci­ences and health pro­fes­sions, and excel­lence in patient care. It includes top-ranked grad­u­ate schools of den­tistry, med­i­cine, nurs­ing and phar­ma­cy; a grad­u­ate divi­sion with world-renowned pro­grams in the bio­log­i­cal sci­ences; a pre­em­i­nent bio­med­ical research enter­prise; and two top-tier hos­pi­tals, UCSF Med­ical Cen­ter and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hos­pi­tal. Please vis­it:

The UCSF Office of Inno­va­tion, Tech­nol­o­gy and Alliances led the nego­ti­a­tion of the agree­ment with Cel­gene and will man­age licens­ing activ­i­ty result­ing from the col­lab­o­ra­tion.

About the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go As one of the world’s pre­mier research uni­ver­si­ties, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go empow­ers stu­dents and schol­ars through its com­mit­ment to free and open inquiry. Across numer­ous depart­ments and dis­ci­plines, as well as more than 140 insti­tutes and cen­ters, the UChica­go com­mu­ni­ty advances ideas and inno­va­tions that enrich human life. UChicago’s fac­ul­ty are some of the top in the world. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go has 89 Nobel Prize win­ners, includ­ing 6 cur­rent fac­ul­ty, and receives more than $450 mil­lion in spon­sored research awards each year. Please vis­it:

UChicagoTech, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago’s Cen­ter for Tech­nol­o­gy Devel­op­ment & Ven­tures, leads licens­ing of RAN anti­bod­ies gen­er­at­ed using NIH fund­ing.

About the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to With three cam­pus­es, nine affil­i­at­ed teach­ing hos­pi­tals and $1.3B a year in exter­nal research fund­ing, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to is a research and inno­va­tion pow­er­house with a grow­ing entre­pre­neur­ship ecosys­tem. The Uni­ver­si­ty has assem­bled one of the strongest research and teach­ing fac­ul­ties in North Amer­i­ca, offer­ing stu­dents an intel­lec­tu­al envi­ron­ment unmatched in breadth and depth on any oth­er Cana­di­an cam­pus. U of T fac­ul­ty co-author more research arti­cles than their col­leagues at any North Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ty oth­er than Har­vard. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to con­sis­tent­ly tops the coun­try in inter­na­tion­al rank­ings, and ranks along­side the top five U.S. uni­ver­si­ties whose dis­cov­er­ies are most often cit­ed by oth­er researchers around the world.

About the Recom­bi­nant Anti­body Net­work The Recom­bi­nant Anti­body Net­work (RAN) is a con­sor­tium of high­ly inte­grat­ed tech­nol­o­gy cen­ters at UCSF, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, uni­fied under a com­mon goal to gen­er­ate reli­able high qual­i­ty recom­bi­nant anti­body (rAb) reagents at a pro­teome wide scale for biol­o­gy and bio­med­i­cine. Please vis­it:

About Cel­gene Cel­gene is a glob­al bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny com­mit­ted to improv­ing the lives of patients world­wide. At Cel­gene, we seek to deliv­er tru­ly inno­v­a­tive and life-chang­ing treat­ments for our patients. Our vision as a com­pa­ny is to build a major glob­al bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal cor­po­ra­tion while focus­ing on the dis­cov­ery, the devel­op­ment, and the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of prod­ucts for the treat­ment of can­cer and oth­er severe, immune, inflam­ma­to­ry con­di­tions.




UCSF: Nicholas Weil­er

Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go: Rhi­an­na Wis­niews­ki

Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to: Althea Black­burn-Evans