The acquisition gives Abcam access to in vitro recombinant monoclonal antibody technology, which the company sees as complementary to its existing in vivo production methods. Abcam, a supplier of protein research tools, sought out AxioMx after recognizing that it needed access to in vitro antibody technology to break into new markets.
While Abcam’s in vivo technique has helped it grow into a publicly-traded company with annual sales of £144 million, other methods are better suited to helping clients involved in infectious diseases, toxins, nucleotides, membrane bound proteins and other challenging areas. This led Abcam to scour the in vitro sector in search of an acquisition target.
“After an extensive review of alternate scaffold and other in vitro technologies, we are confident that AxioMx has created unique, high quality and economically attractive methods to serve customers in research, diagnostic and drug discovery labs globally,” Alan Hirzel, CEO of Abcam, said.
AxioMx, a 28-person company based in Branford, Connecticut, was founded in 2012 to make phage display a viable technology for everyday production of monoclonal antibodies. Uptake of earlier iterations of phage display was held back by the cost and timelines involved with the technology.
Researchers at AxioMx have tried to overcome these shortcomings by developing antibody libraries with more than 10 billion unique clones, plus a pair of screening techniques to cut the time it takes to identify the most appropriate molecule.
Abcam views the technology as sufficiently compelling to justify handing over $20 million upfront to acquire AxioMx. If a series of milestones are achieved by the combined company, Abcam could end up paying a further $25 million in performance-based fees.
Hirzel has set aside more money for investment in AxioMx. The money will go toward refocusing the operating model of AxioMx, which currently provides access to its technology on a service basis. Abcam will also invest to scale up production capacity at AxioMx.
Once the refocusing process is complete, AxioMx will make its recombinant antibodies available through Abcam’s online store. The store, which resembles an Amazon for research proteins, allows customers to buy and review antibodies and other products sold by Abcam.
Some of the products sold on Abcam’s platform are sourced from third parties. Acquiring AxioMx is part of a wider attempt by Abcam to “increase the supply of high quality products generated from our own innovation,” Hirzel said.