Novo Nordisk licenses 'small antibody' tech from Ablynx

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Nanobody production uses llama-based antibodies as a starting point
Nanobody production uses llama-based antibodies as a starting point

Related tags Antibody

Ablynx has licensed its nanobody platform to Novo Nordisk which hopes to discover and develop single-domain antibody fragment drug candidates.

Nanobodies are single-domain antibodies which bind to specific antigens. While their action is similar to that of antibodies, they are just a fraction of the size.

Today Belgium-based biotech firm Ablynx announced it has signed a licensing deal with Danish Biopharam Novo Nordisk which will make an upfront €5m ($6m) payment to use the nanobody tech platform to discover and develop multi-specific drug candidates for use in an undisclosed disease area.

Edwin Moses, CEO of Ablynx, told such antibody fragments are becoming “increasingly important in next generation biologics,”​ and the nature of nanobodies is attracting drug companies looking for candidates with better penetration and more flexible formatting.

Novo Nordisk will be responsible for the development, manufacturing and commercialisation of any products resulting from the deal, and Ablynx could receive up to €182m in royalties per programme.                                                                                                    

The deal resembles recent licensing agreements Ablynx has inked with Merck & Co.​ (known as MSD outside of North America) and Merck Serono​, though is in a different disease area.

‘Small antibodies’

The firm describes nanobodies as “having the advantages of conventional antibody drugs with some of the features of small-molecule drugs,”​ and Moses explained one of the factors is the natural robustness of the protein.

“Most nanobodies can be treated quite roughly,”​ he said. “But with antibodies they are far less stable.”

This has implications in reducing the need for a temperature-controlled supply-chain, while both the size and the stability allows such drugs to be delivered by alternative routes, such as nasal or directly into the eye.

While Ablynx is not the only company providing antibody fragment production technology, Moses said it is alone in using llama-based antibodies as a starting point.

Camelides such as llamas “produce heavy chain only antibodies against antigens rather just the classical heavy-light chain pairings… Ablynx cleaves the variable region of these heavy chain antibodies to essentially make ‘smaller antibodies.’”

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