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Just Biotherapeutics CEO and Founding Partner James Thomas. (Just Photo)

Just Biotherapeutics, a Seattle-based company that aims to reduce the cost of protein drug development, announced an agreement Monday to be acquired by German biotech company Evotec for up to $90 million.

Founded in 2014 by a group of former Amgen scientists, Just Biotherapeutics was backed by investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which led a $14 million funding round in the company in 2016. Evotech is paying all cash for the acquisition, with an unspecified portion of the $90 million price tag contingent upon Just Biotherapeutics reaching certain milestones over the next three years. The acquisition is expected to close in the second half of this year.

“Combining Just.Bio with Evotec creates a technological powerhouse that will fuel our long-term mission to make important biologics accessible to patients worldwide. We are thrilled to be part of the Evotec family,” Just CEO Dr. James Thomas said in the statement.

Just Biotherapeutics has about 90 employees, most of them scientists, working at its facility in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. It ranked #174 on the GeekWire 200, GeekWire’s listing of the most prominent privately-held technology companies in the Pacific Northwest.

Thomas will lead U.S. operations and take on the role of executive vice president and global head of biotherapeutics at Evotec. Evotec is a drug discovery firm with approximately 100 treatments currently in development. Evotec says the acquisition will turn its business “into a comprehensive offering including biologics in therapeutic areas such as oncology, CNS, pain, inflammation, metabolics, and infectious diseases.”

Just aims to integrate the drug-making process, from creating molecules to designing manufacturing plants. The company’s technological toolkit includes software for modeling molecules as well as creating efficient and scalable manufacturing processes.

The backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was response to the company’s mission to make protein therapeutics cheaper and more accessible, enabling the testing of treatments for infectious diseases in developing countries with lower-cost drugs.

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