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Gerngross Starts Antibody Company to Fight Coronaviruses

Aug 06, 2020   |   by Julie Bonette

Dartmouth engineering professor and biotechnology entrepreneur Tillman Gerngross has raised $50 million in venture capital for his newest company, Adagio Therapeutics, to begin clinical trials of antibodies engineered to protect against SARS-CoV-2. Gerngross believes human trials of the treatment will begin late 2020 or early in 2021.

Tillman Gerngross
Professor Tillman Gerngross
, co-founder & CEO of Adagio Therapeutics

A team at Adagio began looking for neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in March, and by spring, they “knew we had something really special,” according to Gerngross, who is co-founder and CEO of both Adagio and its parent company Adimab, the industry leader in translating target hypotheses into therapeutically-relevant antibody drugs, according to its website.

“We isolated, characterized, and engineered monoclonal antibodies from a survivor of the 2002–2004 SARS-CoV outbreak that also react with SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. Several of these antibodies neutralize SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, as well as SARS-related coronaviruses circulating in bats, suggesting that these antibodies have the potential for prophylaxis and therapy against not only SARS-CoV-2, but also future SARS-like coronavirus outbreaks,” said Daniel Maurer, who in 2017 graduated from Dartmouth with his BE and then spent two years as a predoctoral research associate at Adimab. Maurer, who is now a PhD candidate at Harvard, returned to Adimab temporarily to work on COVID-related projects earlier this year.

Gerngross believes Adagio stands apart from competitors pursuing vaccines and antibody research because the team is working on broad neutralization to prevent against similar outbreaks in the future. Their goal is to develop a biannual injection that would protect against sarbecoviruses, a group of viruses that includes SARS-CoV-2.

“Coronaviruses have been spilling over into the human population now in three documented cases over the past 20 years. There is no reason to believe that the spillover is going to end,” said Gerngross.

Financing for Adagio was led in large part by Polaris Partners.

“I’ve invested in every single company that Tillman has started,” said Terry McGuire Th’82, Founding Partner of Polaris Partners and Chair of Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth’s Board of Advisors from 2008 until earlier this year. “We back him repeatedly. We find his creativity enormous, and his candor and can-do attitude extraordinary. What’s beautiful about Tillman is that he’s so incredibly decisive. He’s just been an extraordinary entrepreneur, and we’ve enjoyed success with Tillman.”

Illustration of cross-neutralizing antibodies bound to SARS-CoV-2
Figure: Structures of cross-neutralizing antibodies bound to SARS-CoV-2 S. (Source: AAAS)

Read this news item on New Hampshire Business Review.

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