Platform: Nanobody technology
Company: Ablynx ($ABLX)
Therapeutic opportunities: Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases; cardiovascular disease; bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis and bone metastases; viral infections; neurology; and oncology.
Partnerships: Merck Serono for immunology, oncology and inflammatory disease, osteoarthritis; Boehringer Ingelheim for oncology, immunology, respiratory and vascular diseases; Novartis for two undisclosed targets.
Ablynx's single-domain, heavy-chain Nanobody technology combines the properties of conventional monoclonal antibodies and small-molecule drugs.
Based on a fraction of an antibody first discovered in camel serum, Nanobodies are less sensitive to temperature and pH changes than other antibody-based therapeutics. "Their final formatting is relatively easy and quick and because of their physical robustness are straightforward and efficient to purify," CEO Edwin Moses said. The company can also modulate the half-life of Nanobodies so they can be used in acute and chronic diseases.
Ghent, Belgium-based Ablynx has shown it can develop Nanobodies for a broad range of indications, Moses told FierceBiotech. The company has generated Nanobodies against more than 235 different disease targets. "We now have 7 Nanobody programs at the clinical development stage and a further 18 preclinical programs, which are partnered."
In 2011, the company achieved clinical proof-of-concept. Moses said: "We believe Nanobodies represent one of the most validated next-generation antibody platforms."
Not all has run smoothly for Ablynx, however. In November, Pfizer ($PFE) decided not to pursue its rheumatoid arthritis drug ATN-103 (anti-TNF-alpha), the candidate furthest along in clinical trials for Ablynx.
But the company is mending. A third pact with Merck Serono for osteoarthritis was announced just days after Pfizer bowed out. And, Ablynx and Merck Serono announced in December 2011 that the compound ALX-0761 has advanced into preclinical development for undisclosed autoimmune diseases.
And, in February, Boehringer Ingelheim announced that it had selected a candidate for preclinical development that is cancer-related. BI is interested in the capability of Nanobodies where interfering with multiple proteins in a pathway may be important, Moses said. BI also has a candidate in preclinical development for the treatment of Alzheimer's.