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VETmAb Biosciences’ Bow-Wow Biz

BIOTECH: Startup Developing Antibodies for Pets

In the best way possible, biotechnology is going to the dogs – and San Diego startup VETmAb Biosciences, Inc. is a leader in bringing it to them.

VETmAb Biosciences is a veterinary biopharmaceutical company focused on developing monoclonal antibody (MAB) therapeutics for dogs and cats. The company was founded in 2022 by Denise Bevers, a 35-year life sciences veteran who previously co-founded KindredBio, another San Diego biotech in the veterinarian space that went public in 2013 and eventually sold to Elanco Animal Health, a company spun out of Eli Lilly.

Prior to that, Bevers held positions at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, Quintiles, Inc., and Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., among others. It was while working at Elan in 2002 that Bevers had the idea to bring MABs to pets.

“But at the time, the cost of manufacturing those drugs would have made it completely unaffordable to the pet owner,” she said. “Most of the coverage we have these days for therapeutics for pets are Visa, MasterCard and American Express, so it had to be a price point an owner can afford.”

In 2022, while working as chief operating officer at DTxPharma, Bevers reconnected with former KindredBio CSO Hangjun Zhan and CEO Richard Chin and the three agreed it was now feasible to bring MABs to pets.

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“We know how to develop these really sophisticated monoclonal antibodies and bispecific antibodies for pets at a price point that an owner can afford, so that’s how VETmAab started,” Bevers said.

The startup raised a $2 million friends and family seed round that included “a number of investors through KindredBio,” Bevers said.

VETmAb is currently launching a Series A fundraising round, which Bevers believes will be attractive to institutional investors.

“The interesting thing about this space is that somewhere between $10 to $15 million you can take a product all the way from concept through FDA approval,” she said, adding that investing in vet biotechs is “a very different financial risk.”

“Also, on the technical front, we know these targets have been thoroughly researched,” she continued. “We’re jumping off from hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of research on the human side to launch our research so we‘ve mitigated a lot of the financial and technical risk with this model.”

As an example of the model’s success, Bevers pointed to Pfizer’s vet spinout Zoetis, which developed small and large molecule drugs for atopic dermatitis “and created a market that wasn’t there.”

“Now this market is a billion-plus market with just two products,” she said. “What that tells us is that until there’s something to treat these diseases, these markets don’t even have value yet.”

Bevers said the MABs for pets market could even be larger because veterinarians prefer them over small molecules due to their better safety profile.

“Dogs can’t tell you they’re having an adverse reaction to a medication,” she said.

Another advantage of VETmAb’s model is that it bases its products on ones already validated for treating humans and then engineers it to be receptive to a dog or cat.

“We call in caninizing for our canine friends and felinizing for our feline friends,” Bevers said. “Pets get many of the same diseases we get. For example, our lead compound is for inflammatory bowel disease in both dogs and cats because there’s no cure for that in pets at this point.”

VETmAb Biosciences, Inc.

Founded: 2022
CEO: Denise Bevers
Headquarters: San Diego
Business: Biopharmaceutical company developing monoclonal antibody therapeutics for dogs and cats
Employees: 3
Website: vetmab.bio
Notable: VETmAb Biosciences is a 2023 CONNECT San Diego Cool Company.

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