Los Angeles has an enormous amount of unappreciated and hidden technology value as well as human talent, both on the research and the development side. There is great opportunity for investment in the area as there is currently little competition in what is a very dynamic space.” 

Bassil Dahiyat

PRESIDENT AND CEO, XENCOR

February 13, 2019

Xencor has remained in Los Angeles County over its 20 years of existence. What was the key reason behind this?

Xencor was initially spun out of Caltech – the California area is where we were located when the technology came together. Our established personal connections were the main reason for staying in the area. As we started to build out the company and hire staff, the cost of moving out started to increase, which was also a key reason behind our decision to stay.

Could you elaborate on Xencor’s technology and its differentiators against what is already in the market?

Xencor’s technology is not uniquely different but is quite unusual in the market. We are focused on expanding the therapeutic boundaries of monoclonal antibody drugs. We have the XmAb antibody engineering platform, which allows us to develop a broad range of drug candidates that are optimized to treat autoimmune disorders, cancer, asthma and allergic diseases.

To create our antibody engineering platform, we precisely alter the stem of the antibody structure – its Fc domain – to significantly enhance natural functions and performance. In some cases, these modifications create entirely new therapeutic mechanisms of action. We have invested heavily into this technology for approximately 15 years with the aims of creating a very broad pipeline with a dense patent network and ultimately becoming the leader within this field. We have moved forward by finding partnerships that we could exploit, as well as developing candidates of our own for external exploitation.

The technology’s development has continued to add new elements to Xencor’s business over the years. We have continually expanded into new areas because Fc domains are such a core part of the biologic mechanism of antibodies.  

Is Xencor agnostic as to the area of therapeutic focus?

We are steered by where our science can be of most benefit and provide us with the greatest competitive advantage in the market. We are currently very involved in the autoimmune and oncology fields.

Much of Xencor’s pipeline is in collaboration with large pharma. What are the company’s key considerations when identifying new partnerships?

Before we had our IPO in 2013 and gained access to capital markets, the key consideration for partnerships was funding. Subsequent to going public, we had access to much larger capital from the public markets, which are vastly larger and more flexible than private capital. This allowed us to make much larger investments to develop our own pipeline. Today, our partnerships are driven by two key factors. The first driver is when an asset does not fit into our core focus anymore, but the science has led us to the asset and we want to extract value from it. The second is when we believe a program can be better leveraged with external assistance. Moving forward, when looking at commercialization, we will be initially looking for partnership but will also factor in opportunities where we can take that journey by ourselves.

Xencor’s lead molecules are obexelimab/XmAb5871, which is currently entering Phase III for autoimmune disease, and XmAb14045, which is currently in an ongoing Phase I study in oncology. When do you expect these molecules to be ready for commercialization?

The stage of the asset is not necessarily the most linear way to look at when the product will be launched. It depends on the therapeutic focus as well. For autoimmune diseases, the timeline is often significantly slower as safety hurdles are higher and the ability to measure the disease is harder and slower. Being optimistic, we believe that the timeline for our lead candidate could potentially be between four to five years.

Could you provide a final message to our international readership with respect to L.A.’s biotech hub?

Los Angeles has an enormous amount of unappreciated and hidden technology value as well as human talent, both on the research and the development side. There is great opportunity for investment in the area as there is currently little competition in what is a very dynamic space.    

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