We spoke with ImmunoGen, Inc. CEO Daniel Junius and he outlined his organization’s priorities and challenges as well as how his company differentiates themselves from the competition.
What are the short-term and long-term priorities for your company?
Our highest priority today is building and advancing our pipeline of wholly owned product candidates. At this time, ImmunoGen is better known for our contribution to Roche’s T-DM1 (trastuzumab emtansine) than for our development of novel anticancer agents. A key priority for us over the longer term is the successful transition from being an early stage, research-focused company to one that also has strong later-stage capabilities.
How does your company go about differentiating yourselves from the competition?
We’re in the fortunate position of being in a field – antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) – that has limited competition today. Virtually all of the ADC compounds now in the clinic are made with either our technology or that of one other company, and there are far more ADC compounds with published clinical data using our technology than any other. As more large players enter the field, our challenge is to maintain our technological lead. We do this by continuing to invest in our technology, developing additional linkers and cell-killing agents to further expand the breadth of cancers that can be treated using our technology. For example, we’ve developed a linker that has been shown in preclinical testing to counteract the multi-drug resistance that many cancers develop.
What is the most challenging part of raising money and seeking collaborations?
The nature of our technology has enabled us to implement a balanced business model: use our technology with our own antibodies to develop ImmunoGen product candidates and out-license it for other companies to use with their antibodies to help fund our product programs. This approach has helped us keep a strong balance sheet, which is a powerful asset both at those times when we do raise money and when negotiating with potential partners.
Tell us something about your company that investors might not know.
While ImmunoGen is known for our Targeted Antibody Payload (TAP) technology – which our partners use with their antibodies – we also have strong antibody capabilities of our own. One implication of this is that we can create product candidates for targets that are highly challenging, enhancing product differentiation. Another is that we are able to go beyond the traditional approach of developing and advancing an antibody based just on its properties (e.g., binding affinity, avidity) to identifying and advancing the antibody that is best for use with our technology.