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Zebra Biologics launches in SD

A new San Diego-based biotechnology firm has been formed to combat a range of diseases from breast cancer to rheumatoid arthritis.

Zebra Biologics Inc., which will have offices in Boston and Shanghai as well as San Diego, plans to commercialize human therapeutic antibodies.

The founding team is being led by Dr. Richard A. Lerner, a contributor to human antibody engineering, including core technology inventions that have resulted in clinically and commercially important human therapeutic antibody biologic drugs such as Humira.

In addition to Lerner, the founders of Zebra include: pharma industry veteran Dr. Phillip Frost, CEO of Opko Health Inc. (NYSE: OPK); Nobel Laureate Dr. Paul Greengard, professor at The Rockefeller University; former GSK Inc. scientist Dr. Gaung Yang, director of The Shanghai Antibody Institute; Chinese industrialist, Feng Gao; and long-time biotech executive Dr. Ronald M. Lindsay, who will serve as chairman of the board and CEO of Zebra.

“We believe this ground-breaking addition to the repertoire of tools used to generate human therapeutics antibodies will have widespread application across all disease areas,” said Lindsay. “In the past 25 years, function blocking or neutralizing antibody therapeutics have revolutionized effective treatments of many cancers and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and multiple sclerosis."

Orally active small molecule drugs have seen increasing competition in the past two decades from so called “biologics” drugs -- most recently exemplified by antibody-based drugs such as Herceptin and Humira, which treat breast cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, respectively.

Humira recently became the world’s most successful commercial pharmaceutical product with 2013 sales projected to well exceed $10 billion once the numbers are tallied later this quarter.

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