Lundbeck inks deal for BBB-crossing shark antibody assets

Ossianix uses shark-derived antibodies to take payloads into the brain

Lundbeck has struck a deal with Ossianix to use shark-derived antibodies to hustle drugs across the blood-brain barrier. The deal, which builds on a two-year collaboration, gives Lundbeck a license to develop multiple CNS products based on the technology.

Ossianix, a transatlantic biotech, began working with Lundbeck in 2014. Since then, the partners have shown therapeutic antibodies can cross the blood-brain barrier in mice when attached to a shark variable new antigen receptor (VNAR) antibody. Compared to other antibodies, VNARs are unusually small and stable, characteristics Ossianix thinks makes them suitable candidates for tricking endogenous transporters in brain capillaries to ferry payloads into the brain.

Lundbeck, a Danish drug developer active in fields including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s, has a particular interest in bypassing the barrier that protects the brain from toxins. Getting drugs past the brain’s blockade is vital to hitting the targets that matter most in CNS conditions, but this has proven to be a persistent problem for companies targeting the organ.

In Ossianix, Lundbeck thinks it has identified a company with the potential to beat the barrier.

“Ossianix has generated a world leading platform for delivering antibodies and potentially other drug agents into the brain with significant potential to benefit patients with diseases in the central nervous system,” Lundbeck SVP of Global Research Kim Andersen said in a statement.

Lundbeck has paid Ossianix a milestone of undisclosed size for its work on the collaboration to date, and secured a license to apply the technology to multiple CNS products. Talking to the Financial Times, Ossianix CEO Frank Walsh predicted the first candidate could be in the clinic in two years.

At this stage, the likely indication to be targeted by that candidate is unknown publicly, but the research priorities of Lundbeck—a drugmaker unusually skewed toward CNS conditions—mean there are plenty of options.

Other companies, including Australia’s AdAlta, are also looking to leverage the features of shark antibodies to develop new drugs. AdAlta raised AU$10 million ($7.5 million) last year to advance human proteins that copy the shape of shark antibodies.