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Gates, Wellcome bet $40M on Kymab’s antibody tech

Cambridge, U.K.’s Kymab touts its drug development platform as an ideal way to spotlight new antibodies, and some bright minds would seem to agree, as the Wellcome Trust and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have teamed up on a $40 million round for the biotech.

Under the Series B terms, each organization will hand over $20 million to support the company’s Kymouse technology, a genetically engineered mouse platform that allows scientists to generate a wealth of fully human antibodies against a variety of targets. The new cash allows Kymab to invest in its pipeline of proprietary antibodies while teaming up with the Gates Foundation on vaccine antigen discovery, the company said, focusing first on malaria and HIV.

Wellcome provided the whole of Kymab’s $30 million A round in 2010, and the Gates Foundation decided to join the fold on the strength of Kymouse, which Trevor Mundel, the foundation’s global health president, said was “one of the most comprehensive transgenic technologies to date.” The biotech says its platform yields a library of about 100 trillion antibodies, giving drug developers their best shot at finding the ever-elusive antibodies that can be spun into therapeutics.

Beyond Kymouse’s promise, Kymab’s in-house efforts are largely focused on cancer and inflammation, and the biotech said it’s on the hunt for strategic collaborations to move things forward. The company struck its first Kymouse-based discovery partnership, a deal with Novo Nordisk ($NVO), just last year.

“Kymab’s highly innovative and technically advanced Kymouse platform has overcome the problems which limited previous generations of human antibody-generating mice,” Chairman David Chiswell said in a statement. “This increased financial strength and addition of new long-term investors gives the company a strong foundation on which we can build a global biotechnology company.”