In this video from Motley Fool Live, which was recorded on Nov. 12, Henry Ji, chairman, president, and CEO of Sorrento Therapeutics (SRNE.Q 7.35%), talks about how the biotech got its start. The company's focus on antibodies has helped it pivot from a previous focus on developing drugs for cancer and pain to tests, treatments, and vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Brian Orelli: You co-founded this company in 2006. What was your vision for Sorrento back then, and then how has it evolved over the last 14 or so years?
Henry Ji: When we started, it was 2006, biotech is quite a bit [in a] funk and there was no money. We got the first money 2009 actually from a multibillionaire, Dr. Phil Frost. He was the chairman of Teva, and we got the money. When I have the vision to found the company basically using a therapeutic antibody library we have and to build a small business, let's say $100 million, actually, Phil told me it could be much bigger. So I asked for $2 million, and Phil gave me five. So you can imagine that Phil knows how to do big stuff. We got the funding 2009, start a wet lab operation in the end of 2009. We built the library in six months, and we did not realize that library is one of the most potent, most productive library in the space.
Therapeutic antibody is the biggest segment of the pharmaceutical business. Humira is one of the biggest products in this space, is from a human antibody library called the Cambridge Antibody Technology Library, and that's a $20 billion a year sales right now as of today. You have the Remicade as antibody. You can name all sorts. Now, the Merck Keytruda, as of today is about $14, $15 billion. Moving on, it could be one of the biggest antibody for oncology. Antibody is the rage, and in the biopharm space, antibody is the same. We have as of today the largest antibody library in the space and we've put in about a hundred-plus important drug targets into in it. So we have a few dozen potent antibody out of our library. So through the years, we've built all of the technology and the products relates to antibody.
For example, we got two antibody together so we can targeting two different targets. That's called a bi-specific antibody, basically using antibody grabbing two different targets. We have built, it was adding a payload. If you're adding a toxin payload, that become antibody drug conjugate. You can hear a lot of acquisitions recently, including Gilead (GILD -0.22%) paid $21 billion to Immunomedics for product that was no sales, just FDA approved for metastatic breast cancer, and Merck (MRK 0.52%) just did a deal of $2.4 billion to buying a small company. It was ADC too. So you've seen these very big movement in the antibody space. Of course, if you do adding of T-cell as a payload using the antibodies guiding on the T-cell surface, it become into a CAR-T space.
Gilead bought Kite for $11.9 billion and the Celgene bought Juno for nine, $10 billion. That's the range here as, again, it's antibody. If you look at it further, if you can develop this stuff with different delivery, if you look at all the immune checkpoint inhibitors, which is big, PD-1, PD-L1, all of these, they actually are working in the lymphatic system. Right now, you do IV, majority of the drugs has washed it out, they're wasted, the T-cells in the lymphatic.
So we acquired a technology from Kimberly-Clark (KMB 0.39%), actually, for lymphatic delivery. Right now, we are working with some of the most leading institute like the Mayo Clinic to using lymphatic delivery to do the immunochip or like a Keytruda type of molecule, more like PD-1, PD-L1. That's the technology we built on through the years and acquiring all this technology, all antibody based.