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. 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.
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, who was a founding investor of Cetus, Amgen, Biogen, and a few other successful biotech companies. 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", the "migis concept", and the "anti-CεmX approach", 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. It eventually occupied the entire warehouse building and established additional R & D facilities in the adjacent land for carrying out various therapeutic antibody programs. 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) 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. 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. 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.