The grant will see the Cambridge, UK-based biopharma firm lead a consortium which includes the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the University of Westminster and Public Health England tasked with discovering and developing antibodies against evolving strains of the Ebola virus.
“This funding was provided by the charity side of the Wellcome Trust in its efforts to tackle the Ebola outbreak,” Kymab CEO Christian Grondahl told Biopharma-Reporter.com. “We are not disclosing amounts at this stage but the initial grant fund is a seed investment which will support the early discovery phase of the programme up to in vitro proof of concept.”
“The company has successfully generated the antigen for the various Ebola virus strains and has started immunisation using the Kymouse,” Grondahl said. “The assays for detecting suitable antibodies have been established in preparation for the screening campaign.”
Kymab, along with Novo Nordisk and Merus, appealed a Regeneron EU patent covering the gene replacement technology used to generate mouse antibodies, leading to the patent being revoked. Regeneron is appealing the decision, and Grondahl said: "The company was pleased that the EPO revoked Regeneron’s patents in its entirety in September 2014 and unfortunately cannot comment further on the UK high court case."
Ebola mAb development
This consortium has been set up as Ebola continues to ravage parts of West Africa, with latest WHO figures placing the number of deaths close to 7,000.
“The crisis has shown that we need to be better prepared for future epidemics,” said Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, who added this collaboration will help “develop drugs that might treat both current and emerging strains of the virus, using an approach that may also apply to other emerging infections.”
There are currently seven treatments for Ebola being developed, all of which are still in early stages of development. Five are antivirals being developed by Biocryst, Chimerix, Fujifilm/Toyama, Tekmira and Sarepta, while two are antibody based.
LeafBio’s ZMapp is a three-antibody cocktail while Fab’entech’s Anti-Ebola candidate uses specific polyclonal immunoglobulin F(ab’)2 fragment, made using a technology platform inherited from Sanofi Pasteur.