GlaxoSmithKline has hit the acquisition trail again in a bid to expand its biopharmaceuticals portfolio and has snapped up privately-owned Domantis for £230 million.

The all-cash deal is expected to complete in January, and Domantis, which develops new antibody therapies, will become part of GSK’s Biopharmaceuticals Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery while continuing to operate from its base in Cambridge, UK.

Explaining the attraction of Domantis, GSK said that it “has pioneered the extension of antibody therapies to potentially far wider applications than has been possible with conventional monoclonal antibodies,” and its technology will help “put GSK at the forefront of biotechnology.”

Next generation of antibody therapy

Monoclonal antibodies are constrained by their large molecular size and have to be administered by injection or infusion, but Domantis “has pioneered the next generation of antibody therapy, which is based on the smallest functional binding units of human antibodies.” These units, termed domain antibodies (dAbs), may be administered in inhaled, topical and, potentially, oral formulations as well, the firms claimed.

Research at Domantis is currently focusing on rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and multiple myeloma and co-founder Ian Tomlinson said that the acquisition “highlights the tremendous potential and value of dAbs and provides the funding and capabilities to advance a large number of dAb products through clinical testing.”

The deal is GSK’s first major purchase since its $566 million purchase of CNS and is the latest in a spate of transactions that has seen big pharma paying big sums for small biotechs in a bid to boost their pipelines. The most prominent on these shores has been AstraZeneca’s £1.3 billion purchase of Cambridge Antibody Technology.