Industry Biopharmaceutical
Fate acquired by Genentech (2007)
Founded Houston, Texas (1986)
Headquarters Houston, Texas, US
Key people
Nancy Chang (Chairman & Co-Founder)
Tse Wen Chang (Founder)
Products Humanized antibody drugs
Parent Genentech
Website www.tanox.com

Tanox was a biopharmaceutical company based in Houston, Texas. The company was founded by two biomedical research scientists, Nancy T. Chang and Tse Wen Chang in March 1986 with $250,000, which was a large part of their family savings at that time. Both Changs grew up and received college education in chemistry in National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan and obtained Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University. For postdoctoral training, Tse Wen shifted to immunology and did research with Herman N. Eisen at the Center for Cancer Research, M.I.T.. The two Changs successively became research managers and worked with a range of monoclonal antibody projects in Centocor, Inc. based in Malvern, Pennsylvania from 1981 to 1985.[1] The Changs were recruited by Baylor College of Medicine toward the end of 1985 and offered faculty positions in the Division of Molecular Virology. Soon after their arrival, they were encouraged by a high-ranking Baylor official and local business leaders to start a biotech venture in Houston. This was in a period of time when the economy of Houston was in slump as the result of the collapse of the oil industry.[1]

The Changs rented a corner of about 2000 square feet in a large empty warehouse building on Stella Link Road, located four miles away from the Texas Medical Center, and built laboratories. In 1987, Tanox obtained a $4 million cash infusion from the legendary biotech venture capitalist and investor, Moshe Alafi,[1] who was a founding investor of Cetus, Amgen, Biogen, and a few other successful biotech companies.[2] Nancy was the Chairman, President, and CEO of Tanox in its 21-year history, while Tse Wen was responsible for creating most of the company's proprietary technology and patents. Tanox's major technology was based on a series of inventions and a family of dominant patents, most notably those relating to the "anti-IgE therapy",[3] the "migis concept",[4] and the "anti-CεmX approach",[5] that pertained to the use of humanized antibodies for targeting immunoglobulin E (IgE) and IgE-expressing B lymphocytes for the treatment of allergic diseases.

Tanox was able to recruit a large number of talented scientists, bioengineers, and other professionals, many of whom from the Texas Medical Center. Tanox held an initial public offering and was listed in the NASDAQ in 2000.[6] It eventually occupied the entire warehouse building and established additional R & D facilities in the adjacent land for carrying out various therapeutic antibody programs.[7] A large number of researchers grew to be top-level research managers in pharmaceutical and large biotech companies.

Tanox became the first major acquisition of Genentech in an all-cash buyout deal (US$919 million)[8] in August 2007 (Genentech itself became wholly owned by Roche in March 2009). The acquisition of Tanox has boosted Roche/Genentech’s product pipeline substantially.[7][8][9][10] In addition to the enhancement of the anti-IgE franchise by the increased rights on Xolair (omalizumab) and by the potential utility of TNX-901 (Talizumab), the other pipeline products that have gained considerable prominence include TNX-355 (Ibalizumab), a unique anti-CD4 antibody for treating AIDS, TNX-650 (Lebrikizumab), an anti-interleukin-13 antibody for treating asthma, and TNX-224, an Fab fragment of a humanized antibody against Factor D of the human immune complement system to be tested for treating geographic atrophy associated with dry age-related macular degeneration.[10] Based on Tanox’s invention of the “anti-CεmX (also referred to anti-M1’) approach”, Genentech is developing Quilizumab, an antibody specifically targeting mIgE on B cells, for asthma and allergic diseases.[10]

The anti-IgE program

Tanox started the "anti-IgE therapy" program and developed a prototype antibody candidate in 1987, and subsequently converted the mouse antibody candidate into a chimeric form and obtained crucial set of data on the antibody in 1988-89. The Tanox' anti-IgE antibodies were designed to target free IgE in blood and IgE-expressing B lymphocytes for the purpose of intercepting the IgE-mediated pathway, without binding to IgE already bound by the high affinity IgE receptors on mast cells and basophils or bound by the low-affinity IgE receptors on many cell types. An ordinary anti-IgE antibody, if were injected into a patient, would cause a massive activation of mast cells and basophils and hence anaphylactic shocks.[1][3] By 1989, Tanox had collected data showing that their proposed therapeutic lead anti-IgE antibody could not induce the activation of basophils isolated from the blood of any of a large number of extremely allergic individuals, even under the most permissive conditions.[11][12]

In order to secure funding to develop the anti-IgE program, the Changs were busily engaged throughout 1989 in trying to find a corporate partner among about 25 pharmaceutical and biotech companies, who were willing to meet with them, to co-develop the anti-IgE therapeutic program.[1] In 1990, Tanox signed a corporate partnership with Ciba-Geigy (Ciba-Geigy merged with Sandoz to form Novartis in 1996) to jointly develop the anti-IgE program.[13] The companies named the antibody candidate CGP51901 (CGP short for "Ciba-Geigy Product"), which humanized form was later created and named TNX-901 or talizumab. With the funding from Ciba-Geigy, Tanox established a 500-liter cGMP bioreactor plant in a space adjacent to the research laboratories in the warehouse building and produced CGP51901 for phase I and II clinical trials.

The joint team from Tanox and Ciba-Geigy received "investigational new drug" (IND) application approval, which is required for the first testing of a new substance in human subjects, for an anti-IgE antibody for the first time, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. This was an important milestone in the development history of the anti-IgE program; Tanox scientists had anticipated major difficulty to receive IND approval for an anti-IgE antibody from the FDA, even though they had experimental data to show that CGP51901 would act differently from an ordinary anti-IgE antibody. Subsequently, Tanox/Ciba Geigy carried out a dose-escalating, double-blinded, placebo-controlled single-dose phase I clinical trial on 33 pollen-sensitive subjects with elevated serum IgE levels in Southampton, England.[14] After resolving a few unexpected clinical findings, mainly the accumulating IgE and anti-IgE immune complexes, from the phase I trial, Ciba-Geigy and Tanox ran a successful phase II trial in 153 patients with severe seasonal allergic rhinitis toward mountain cedar pollens in three medical centers in Texas in 1994-1995.[15] The positive clinical trial results, which showed increasing efficacy of CGP51901 over three different dosages (15, 30, or 60 mg in six bi-weekly doses) in improving nasal and ocular symptom scores, impressed the researchers and clinical investigators working on a similar anti-IgE program in Genentech.

In 1996, after a 3-year long lawsuit between Tanox and Genentech[16] was settled out-of-court, Genentech made its first payment of $16 million to Tanox,[17] and Tanox, Novartis, and Genentech formed a tripartite partnership to develop the anti-IgE program.[18] A humanized anti-IgE antibody from Genentech, omalizumab, with identical key binding characteristics as CGP51901, was chosen by a joint program steering committee for further development, because it had a better developed manufacturing process.[18]

Omalizumab, with the trade name Xolair, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2003 for use in patients 12 years and older with moderate-to-severe allergic asthma. It was subsequently approved in the European Union and many other countries for patients 12 years and older with severe, persistent allergic asthma.

Antibody therapeutics

Among the humanized antibody drugs Tanox developed by itself or with corporate partners:

Other major technologies

Other than the therapeutic antibodies, which target the IgE allergic pathway, immune factors, and CD4, Tanox also possessed several other major patented technologies. Among those, two sets of patents represent landmark inventions in their respectively related fields. Largely because these patents were awarded too far ahead the maturation of the peripheral technologies, they did not bring material financial impact on Tanox. Nonetheless, the creation of these technologies helped germinate the two important fields and enhanced Tanox as a pioneer in the antibody field.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Twombly R. Couple Lead Quest for New Allergy Drug. The Scientist January 7, 1991. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/11548/title/Couple-Lead-Quest-For-New-Allergy-Drug/.
  2. Goldhaber N and Steuart J. Biotech Industry Guru Moshe Alafi Wins Lifetime Achievement Award From UC Berkeley. Claremont Creek Alerts March 24, 2012. http://blog.claremontcreek.com/biotech-industry-guru-moshe-alafi-wins-lifetime-achievement-award-from-uc-berkeley/.
  3. 1 2 The family of anti-IgE patents. http://www.google.com/patents/US5422258; http://www.google.com/patents/US5428133; http://www.google.com/patents/US5449760; http://www.google.com/patents/US5543144; http://www.google.com/patents/US5614611.
  4. The family of patents relating to the "migis" concept. http://www.google.com/patents/US5091313; http://www.google.com/patents/US5252467; http://www.google.com/patents/US5260416; http://www.google.com/patents/US5292867.
  5. The family of patents relating to the "anti-CεmX approach". http://www.google.com/patents/US5254671; http://www.google.com/patents/US5274075; http://www.google.com/patents/US5342924.
  6. Tanox, Inc. completes US$244.2 million initial public offering. PR Newswire April 8, 2000. http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/news-releases/tanox-inc-completes-us2442-million-initial-public-offering-153810095.html
  7. 1 2 Form 10-K for Tanox Inc, Annual Report 2006. Yahoo Finance March 16, 2007. http://biz.yahoo.com/e/070316/tnox10-k.html
  8. 1 2 Genentech Announces Agreement to Acquire Tanox for $20 Per Share. Genentech News November 9, 2006. http://www.gene.com/media/press-releases/10167/2006-11-09/genentech-announces-agreement-to-acquire
  9. Kirdahy M. Genentech Acquires Tanox, Analysts Applaud. Forbes November 10, 2006. http://www.forbes.com/2006/11/10/genentech-tanox-acquisition-markets-equity-cx_mk_1110markets03.html
  10. 1 2 3 Roche Investor Day 2012. http://www.roche.com/investors/ir_agenda/ir_day-2012.htm.
  11. Chang TW, Davis FM, Sun NC, Sun CR, MacGlashan DW Jr, Hamilton RG (February 1990). "Monoclonal antibodies specific for human IgE-producing B cells: a potential therapeutic for IgE-mediated allergic diseases". Biotechnology (N Y). 8 (2): 122–6. doi:10.1038/nbt0290-122. PMID 1369991.
  12. Davis FM, Gossett LA, Pinkston KL, Liou RS, Sun LK, Kim YW, Chang NT, Chang TW, Wagner K, Bews J, Brinkmann V, Towbin H, Subramanian N, Heusser C (1993). "Can anti-IgE be used to treat allergy?". Springer Semin Immunopathol. 15 (1): 51–73. doi:10.1007/BF00204626. PMID 8362344.
  13. Development and Licensing Agreement, between Tanox and Ciba-Geigy 1990. http://contracts.onecle.com/tanox/ciba-geigy.rd.1990.05.11.shtml
  14. Corne J, Djukanovic R, Thomas L, Warner J, Botta L, Grandordy B, Gygax D, Heusser C, Patalano F, Richardson W, Kilchherr E, Staehelin T, Davis F, Gordon W, Sun L, Liou R, Wang G, Chang TW, Holgate S (March 1997). "The effect of intravenous administration of a chimeric anti-IgE antibody on serum IgE levels in atopic subjects: efficacy, safety, and pharmacokinetics". J Clin Invest. 99 (5): 879–87. doi:10.1172/JCI119252. PMC 507895Freely accessible. PMID 9062345.
  15. Racine-Poon A, Botta L, Chang TW, Davis FM, Gygax D, Liou RS, Rohane P, Staehelin T, van Steijn AM, Frank W (December 1997). "Efficacy, pharmacodynamics, and pharmacokinetics of CGP 51901, an anti-immunoglobulin E chimeric monoclonal antibody, in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis". Clin Pharmacol Ther. 62 (6): 675–90. doi:10.1016/S0009-9236(97)90087-4. PMID 9433396.
  16. Thorpe H. Drug war (Small drug firm Tanox takes on Genentech over patent rights) Texas Monthly, April 1, 1995. http://business.highbeam.com/410545/article-1G1-16816180/drug-war
  17. Pollack A. Wrangling May Delay Peanut Allergy Drug. New York Times March 13, 2003. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/13/business/wrangling-may-delay-peanut-allergy-drug.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
  18. 1 2 Tripartite Cooperation Agreement, by and between NOVARTIS PHARMA AG, GENENTECH, INC, AND TANOX, INC. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1099414/000119312504083427/dex101.htm
  19. Leung DY, Sampson HA, Yunginger JW, et al. (2003). "Effect of anti-IgE therapy in patients with peanut allergy". N. Engl. J. Med. 348 (11): 986–93. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa022613. PMID 12637608.
  20. Ferber D. More Good News for Peanut Allergy Sufferers. Science March 10, 2003. http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2003/03/10-02.html?ref=hp
  21. Stephens A. Drug could beat nut allergy. Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-172357/Drug-beat-nut-allergy.html
  22. Davis FM, Gossett LA, Chang TW (January 1991). "An epitope on membrane-bound but not secreted IgE: implications in isotype-specific regulation". Biotechnology (N Y). 9 (1): 53–6. doi:10.1038/nbt0191-53. PMID 1370037.
  23. Peng C, Davis FM, Sun LK, Liou RS, Kim YW, Chang TW (January 1992). "A new isoform of human membrane-bound IgE". J Immunol. 148 (1): 129–36. PMID 1727861.
  24. Chen HY, Liu FT, Hou CM, Huang JS, Sharma BB, Chang TW (August 2002). "Monoclonal antibodies against the CεmX domain of human membrane-bound IgE and their potential use for targeting IgE-expressing B cells". Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 128 (4): 315–24. doi:10.1159/000063860. PMID 12218370.
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  27. http://clinicaltrial.gov/ct2/show/NCT01582503?term=MEMP1972A&rank=1.
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  29. AIDS drug survives Tanox: Genentech license launches new team at TaiMed Biologics. MDLinx April 14, 2008. http://www.mdlinx.com/pharma-news/news-article.cfm/2208067/
  30. TMB355. TaiMed Biologics. http://www.taimedbiologics.com/en/info/TMB355.aspx
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  32. http://www.google.com/patents/US8124090.
  33. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Tanox%27s+Anti-Factor+D+Antibody+Reduces+Systemic+Inflammation+in+An...-a076923261.
  34. http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01229215?term=FCFD4514S&recr=Open&phase=1&rank=1.
  35. Patents on "antibody matrix". http://www.google.com/patents/US4591570; http://www.google.com/patents/US4829010; http://www.google.com/patents/US5100777.
  36. Chang TW (December 1983). "Binding of cells to matrixes of distinct antibodies coated on solid surface". J. Immunol. Methods. 65 (1-2): 217–23. doi:10.1016/0022-1759(83)90318-6. PMID 6606681.
  37. Chang TW (March 1993). "Immunosorbent Cytometry". Biotechnology. 11 (3): 291–3. doi:10.1038/nbt0393-291. PMID 7765290.
  38. Patents relating to making monoclonal antibodies by performing PCR on single antigen-specific B cells to obtain VH and VL. http://www.google.com/patents/US5213960; http://www.google.com/patents/US5256542; http://www.google.com/patents/US5326696.
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