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Ablynx and Merck begin immuno-oncology collaboration

Published on 15/10/15 at 10:35am
Ablynx flags
Ablynx is a Belgian biopharma company engaged in the development of nanobodies - therapeutic proteins based on single-domain antibody fragments

Ablynx has achieved a pre-clinical proof-of-concept with a nanobody construct as part of its immuno-oncology collaboration with Merck – triggering a €3.5 million milestone payment to the Belgium biopharma firm. 

The collaboration with Merck includes the discovery and development of up to 17 nanobody programmes against individual protein targets and target combinations, for application in immuno-oncology indications. 

The exclusive collaboration deal, signed in February 2014, included a licensing agreement and is focused on the discovery and development of several predefined nanobody candidates directed toward immune checkpoint modulators. 

This nanobody construct is a selective bi-specific molecule that potently binds to two different immune modulators. These are proteins believed to be targets for the development of important cancer immunotherapies. The results from the pre-clinical study in relevant tumour models demonstrated that this bi-specific nanobody construct potently inhibits tumour growth. 

Dr Edwin Moses, chief executive of Ablynx, says: "Combination therapies are the next generation in immuno-oncology and this is where our nanobody technology offers major advantages. In particular, the ability to rapidly produce single constructs which can bind to multiple target combinations is a very powerful characteristic of our nanobody platform. 

“It is a very significant achievement to have already reached our first pre-clinical milestone, just 20 months after the start of our collaboration with Merck. We look forward to further advancing programmes within this collaboration to potentially develop drugs which could transform the treatment of many cancers and the lives of patients." 

Ablynx has received €33 million in upfront payments and is eligible to receive research funding plus development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties on annual net sales upon commercialisation of any nanobody products. 

Yasmita Kumar 

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