Ablynx adds Genzyme to roster of big-name collaborators

Ablynx (EBR:ABLX) has entered into a collaboration with Sanofi's ($SNY) Genzyme to investigate the use of its single-domain antibodies against a target involved with multiple sclerosis. The deal gives Genzyme the exclusive right to test the antibodies in models relevant to multiple sclerosis. 

Ghent, Belgium-based Ablynx picked up an undisclosed fee for granting Genzyme the exclusive right to run the in vitro and in vivo research. If Genzyme likes the look of the data generated in the tests, it has the option to negotiate a licensing agreement. Ablynx has already laid the groundwork for the collaboration by generating single-domain antibodies--the class of proprietary therapeutic proteins on which its business is based--against the target of interest and running preclinical tests to confirm their activity.

Ablynx CEO Edwin Moses

The preclinical preparations pushed Ablynx into a therapeutic field outside of its main areas of focus. Ablynx lists the Genzyme multiple sclerosis project as one of two neurology programs in its in-house and partnered pipelines. The other, with Merck ($MRK), is also at the discovery stage. Until last week, Ablynx also listed a discovery-stage neurology collaboration with Merck Serono in its partnered pipeline, but that project has been scrubbed from the latest version. Merck Serono returned three programs to Ablynx recently in a revision to the terms of their 2013 alliance.

Merck Serono's decision to shrink the collaboration was a setback for Ablynx but other assets and alliances will have a bigger effect on the future of the company. Ablynx has moved to gather the money it needs to finance development of these key assets by issuing up to €100 million ($111 million) in convertible bonds, the proceeds from which will finance a filing for conditional approval of caplacizumab in Europe. Ablynx may also use some of the cash to commercialize caplacizumab, which is entering Phase III in the blood disorder thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura this year.

Another tranche of the cash is earmarked for development of Ablynx's second most advanced candidate, an inhaled treatment for respiratory syncytial virus infection in infants. If the drug impresses in a Phase IIa trial that is due to report data in the first half of 2016, Ablynx plans to push it into a global Phase IIb study before the end of that year.

- read the Genzyme release
- here's the bond news (PDF)