Fusion Antibodies exploring AI use, driving up quality to compete with ‘pop up consultants’
The UK-based contract research organization (CRO) recently released its final earnings results for the year ending March 31, 2018 (FY18) – which are in line with current market expectations, according to the company.
However, in a notice of results and trading statement, the antibody engineering and cell line development services firm said its FY19 results are anticipated to be “significantly behind current market expectations” due to slower trading to date for the current financial period ending March 31, 2019.
For FY18, the company reported revenue growth of 41% to £2.7m ($3.48m) from £1.91m ($2.46) in 2017. The EBITDA loss of £641k and adjusted EBITDA profit of £132k was broadly in-line with expectations, according to the company, and reflects investments it has made in future growth. This investment is expected to deliver further significant revenue growth, per Fusion Antibodies’ earnings release.
According to the company, growth was driven by customer projects in all geographic regions “other than the UK.” Fusion Antibodies CEO Paul Kerr told us the company has seen “huge growth” in Asia, noting that the countries – including China, Japan, and Korea – present good opportunities.
New competition and how Fusion Antibodies is responding: 'We’re trying to differentiate ourselves'
The emergence of so-called “pop up consultants” has created new competition, Kerr explained, “which is ultimately driving down the price of humanization.”
While these consultants – many out of the Bay Area and formerly at pharma – are offering a lower price for such services, they are doing so on a very small subset, Kerr said.
“Whereas we’ve developed and invested in our humanization platform – we’re trying to differentiate ourselves by offering more all the way through stable cell line development,” he explained. “What we’re trying to do is drive up our quality and add more certainty and more manufacturability to the products.”
Additionally, the company is looking at incorporating machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) into its CDRx humanization platform. The platform screens a database of more than 100,000 antibody sequences with customized algorithms to define a panel of human donor frameworks, using multiple analytical techniques.
“We want to keep differentiating our product to make sure it’s the best humanization platform in the world, and that’s our goal, keep ourselves in front,” said Kerr.
The next steps include hiring more staff and “pushing the CDRx platform forward” towards affinity maturation. “This is going to be a new service that we plan to launch at the end of the year,” Kerr explained. “We are going to keep offering what we have... but also add affinity maturation and Antibody Developability by Design (ADD) services.”
This service is expected to launch at the end of 2018 and the addition of a mammalian antibody library remains on track for 2020. Kerr added that he expects to enter more partnerships as the company continues to grow.
“Everyone’s looking for that extra edge and we want to give that extra edge to help people get the best antibody to reach those difficult targets faster,” he said.
Kerr, who has been working in antibodies for more than 25 years, said the discussions were initially all about promise. “But it’s really materializing now,” he said, adding that the antibodies industry hasn’t “bottomed out” in terms of what can be done.
Moving forward, he said, “We’re going to have to use technology to bring down the price … To make it more affordable for the health care systems.”