Trellis is a private, venture-funded therapeutic antibody company formed around a breakthrough discovery platform capable of isolating therapeutic grade antibodies directly from the blood cells of humans. The Company’s discovery platform, called CellSpotTM, is described in peer- reviewed publications and validated by the interest of several global pharma companies around a CellSpot-derived, pre-clinical human antibody targeting Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), currently a $1.5B market. This interest culminated in December 2009 in a licensing transaction valued at $338M with MedImmune/AstraZeneca.
The human immune system is the most highly evolved and sophisticated system known for generating effective antibodies. Recent publications in the areas of HCV, HIV, SARS, and influenza, as well as our own work in RSV, have demonstrated the utility of the human immune library as a rich source for therapeutic antibody mining. In the past, exploitation of the power of the human immune system’s rich antibody repertoire for pharmaceutical development has been thwarted by the fact that the highest quality antibodies (those with high affinity and defined specificity) are present at extremely low levels, well below the limits of detection of standard technologies such as ELISA. Trellis’ CellSpot technology has conquered these issues by using computerized microscopy to drastically miniaturize a multiplexed antigen binding assay capable of characterizing millions of individual antibody producing B cells during the first step of antibody discovery.
Venture capital totaling $40M was invested in Trellis to develop the CellSpot technology while simultaneously supporting the RSV antibody program as the first proof of principle. The RSV asset has been segregated from the platform, with $7M in new capital invested for further exploitation of the mature technology in a capital efficient business model focused on discovering therapeutic antibodies directly from humans and developing them to a partnerable, pre-IND level. In addition to advancing internal programs, Trellis is willing to partner its unique CellSpot capability with pharma and biotech companies, as well as government and philanthropic institutions. All of these have an interest in leveraging the human antibody opportunity but currently lack the capability to do so at the level of quality provided by CellSpot. This business model is designed to allow Trellis to focus where it has the greatest and most differential expertise.
Trellis is focused initially on targets in infectious disease. CellSpot’s efficiency and Trellis’ infrastructure allow managing two to three therapeutic programs simultaneously. The current lead program is focused on pandemic influenza, leveraging the expertise of our academic respiratory virology collaborators from the RSV project. Characterization of Lead antibodies is being finalized against a broad sampling of influenza strains, both in cell culture and in animal models. The second current project is an anti-viral program targeting cytomegalovirus (CMV), the leading non-genetic cause of birth defects now understood to result when mothers contract CMV for the first time during pregnancy, as well as the leading infectious disease impacting the transplant setting. A potent Lead antibody has been discovered and characterization is nearing completion across a broad set of human cell types and clinical strains. Several bacterial targets are currently being explored as candidates for a third and fourth program.