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Industryindustrial biotechnology, pharmaceuticals
HeadquartersRedwood City, CA
Key people
Russell J. Howard (CEO)
Alejandro Zaffaroni
Willem P.C. Stemmer
Isaac Stein

Maxygen Inc. was a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing improved versions of protein drugs using DNA shuffling and other protein modification technologies. The company was headquartered in Redwood City, CA. It dissolved in 2013. The Maxygen legacy was revived in 2018 with a focus on Directed Evolution of Proteins using Molecular Breeding. Maxygen is currently headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA.

Clinical Programs[edit]

Maxygen’s clinical programs include a novel G-CSF for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, which entered clinical trials in 2006. Maxygen also has a preclinical program, MAXY-4, to develop a novel CTLA4-Ig therapeutic for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.


Maxygen was established to commercially exploit its proprietary recombination-based technologies for creating genetic diversity, known as its Molecular Breeding directed evolution platform. These technologies allow the generation of millions of variant genes and proteins, which then can be screened to identify those of potential commercial interest. This laboratory process mimics the powerful natural process of evolution. Maxygen’s work has led to numerous scientific publications and patents.

Other protein engineering and protein modification technologies used by Maxygen include mutagenesis, rational design, PEGylation, glycosylation, and de-immunization.


Maxygen was founded in 1997 by Dr. Alejandro Zaffaroni, a San Francisco Bay Area scientist and entrepreneur, and three co-founders: Dr. Willem P.C. Stemmer, Dr. Russell Howard and Isaac Stein. Dr. Zaffaroni has founded multiple companies including ALZA Corporation, DNAX Research Institute, Affymax, Affymetrix, Symyx Technologies, and Alexza.

Maxygen has demonstrated that the MolecularBreeding directed evolution platform has commercial potential in a number of areas, including agriculture, veterinary medicine, enzyme/chemical processes, and human therapeutics. To accelerate its development of improved biopharmaceuticals, Maxygen acquired the Danish company Profound Pharma A/S in 2000, created by Christian Karsten Hansen and Jan Møller Mikkelsen in 1999. To facilitate the commercial development of products made with its technologies, in 2002 Maxygen established Codexis to focus on enzyme/chemical applications and MaxyAg to focus on agricultural applications. MaxyAg was later renamed Verdia Inc. (, and Verdia was sold to DuPont in 2004 for $64 million. In addition, Maxygen established Avidia in 2003 to develop protein subunits as commercial products, including therapeutics. Avidia was purchased by Amgen in 2006 for $290 million.

The company reported a fourth-quarter 2007 loss of $11.3M.[1]

Maxygen filed a certificate of dissolution on August 29, 2013.[2] The company has ceased all operations.

Maxygen revival -

Knowing the enormous potential of the techniques that once powered Maxygen's application of Directed Evolution to protein engineering, and wanting to continue the legacy, a private investor acquired the Maxygen trademark and was granted full rights to the name on January 9th 2018. The importance of Directed Evolution was further exemplified when the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded in 2018 for the development of this technique for protein engineering. Maxygen is now a privately owned company operating in Sunnyvale, CA providing rapid protein engineering applying Molecular Breeding to accomplish Directed Evolution. Additionally, Maxygen leverages advanced synthetic biology techniques to further accelerate the optimization of proteins and expressing them. One such capability is directional assembly of multiple blunt ended dsDNA fragments in a single reaction. This technique enables Maxygen to build full plasmids in hours, giving them freedom to rapidly explore expression vector variants for improved stability, expression and production.

Corporate governance[edit]

Chief Executive Officer - Steven Riedmuller Chief Scientific Officer - Robert Whalen Director of Operations - Janelle Muranaka

Tassos Gianakakos is a former Director of Business Development for Maxygen.[3]


  1. ^ "Maxygen swings to Q4 loss of $11.3M". San Francisco Business Times. 2008-02-12.
  2. ^ "Maxygen Announces Filing Of Certificate Of Dissolution".
  3. ^ "People". Gen. Eng. Biotechnol. News (paper). 33 (21). December 2013. p. 53.

External links[edit]