Antibody aficionado Abcam explores strategic alternatives—including a potential sale

Half a decade after Abcam quit its 270 million pound sterling pursuit of Horizon Discovery, the British antibody research expert has potentially found itself on the opposite end of the dealmaking table.

After a soul-searching round with shareholders, Abcam’s board of directors has unanimously decided to explore strategic alternatives for the Cambridge, England-based company, which could include a potential sell-off.

While Abcam’s fate remains uncertain at present, the review process has kicked off immediately, with the board assessing a “broad range of options of maximize shareholder value.” Further, Abcam says it’s already received several “strategic inquiries” from multiple parties over the past few weeks.

Abcam—which says its ambition is to be “the most influential company in life sciences”—boasts some 750,000 customers across its antibody, reagent, biomarker and assay businesses.

The company has pegged itself as a leader in life sciences data sharing and e-commerce. More specifically, Abcam sees itself as an innovator in reagents and tools, providing research and clinical communities with the instruments and scientific support needed to identify important targets in critical biological pathways.

“Abcam is a unique asset that provides innovative products and solutions for the global life sciences community,” the company said in a press statement. The best path forward for Abcam lies in a review of strategic alternatives, Abcam added, noting it will “pursue the pathway that maximizes value for our shareholders and also ensures successful outcomes for our customers and employees."

Abcam caveated that there can be “no assurance” regarding the results of the review nor does the company currently plan to comment further on the process. Abcam added that it will make further announcements in accordance with ongoing disclosure obligations, laws and regulations.

Five years back, Abcam was on the opposite side of the M&A table. In April of 2018, Abcam made a 1.81 million pound all-stock offer to Horizon Discovery’s board, but upon the companies’ meeting, Horizon determined there was “little strategic rationale for combining the two companies.” After Horizon’s board ruled that the bid “fundamentally [undervalued]” the company, it rejected the offer.

Abcam in turn went public with its takeover plans to encourage Horizon to enter negotiations. Abcam’s pitch to Horizon’s shareholders talked up the merits of the merger, arguing it would accelerate the growth of the gene editing specialist and allow both Cambridge-based businesses to expand globally.

Despite Abcam raising its bid to 270 million pounds (then $367 million) in May of 2018, Horizon Discovery rejected the offer, issuing a strongly worded rebuttal claiming the bid was “highly opportunistic.”

Not all of Abcam’s buyout attempts have fallen flat, however. A year after its Horizon pursuit, Abcam beefed up its presence in rabbit monoclonal antibodies with the acquisition of California’s Calico Biolabs.

With the deal, Abcam got its hands on Calico’s catalog of ready-made CAL antibodies for immunohistochemistry as well as its custom development services.