Alder Bio and its yeast-produced antibodies take in $40M

Alder Biopharmaceuticals, a Bothell, Wash., developer of antibody drugs, raised $40 million in a third funding round. Investors included Delphi Ventures, TPG Biotech, Sevin Rosen Funds, Ventures West, H.I.G. Ventures, and WRF Capital.

Alder develops antibody-based drugs for inflammation and autoimmune disease. The company’s lead candidate, ALD518, is currently in clinical trials as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, although neither Alder’s Web site nor its statement disclose when the drug began human tests.

Alder’s work is also noticeable because it produces its antibodies in genetically modified yeast cells, a new manufacturing technique that the company claims is faster and cheaper than traditional genetic-engineering methods involving mammalian cells. Not only does production in yeast allow companies to sidestep the need for expensive patent licenses that cover traditional methods, Alder claims it can speed the development process to months from years, making it possible to evaluate a much wider range of antibody candidates.

Alder also claims that ALD518 is the first full-length functioning antibody to be made on an industrial scale in yeast. For an additional information on the merits of yeast-based antibody manufacture, see our previous coverage of Adimab, a startup developing its own yeast-production system for similar reasons. If you’re a technical-detail junkie, don’t miss the discussion in comments.

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