GHENT, Belgium and LONDON, United Kingdom, 25 February 2013 – Ablynx [Euronext Brussels: ABLX] and Spirogen Ltd. announce a research collaboration to evaluate the potential of a novel anti-cancer drug conjugate combining Spirogen’s proprietary cytotoxic drugs, pyrrolobenzodiazepines (PBD), and associated linker technology, with Nanobodies® generated using Ablynx’s proprietary technology platform.
Under the terms of the collaboration, Ablynx will provide access to novel Nanobodies against a specific, undisclosed cancer target and Spirogen will provide access to its proprietary cytotoxic warheads (PBDs) and conjugation technologies. Both companies will contribute their resources towards the collaboration, which is expected to last for up to a year initially. Following this feasibility phase, Ablynx will have the option to either in-license Spirogen’s technology or, in collaboration with Spirogen, move development forward with a third party. No further terms have been disclosed.
Dr Andreas Menrad, Chief Scientific Officer of Ablynx, said:
“We are very pleased to be working with Spirogen to discover and develop novel cancer therapeutics based on both companies’ proprietary technologies. Our Nanobodies have the potential to selectively and efficiently deliver Spirogen’s PBD drugs to the site of the tumour. We are very excited about combining our unique and powerful technology with Spirogen’s novel cytotoxic agents to search for breakthrough opportunities in oncology.”
Dr Chris Martin, Chief Executive Officer of Spirogen, said:
“The collaboration with Ablynx is designed to evaluate the potential of a Nanobody to act as the targeting molecule for the PBD warhead, which is released once it is inside the cancer cell. These warheads have the potential to be extremely potent without distorting the DNA helix thus avoiding mechanisms that lead to tumours becoming resistant to other anti-cancer drugs.”
Ablynx is a biopharmaceutical company engaged in the discovery and development of Nanobodies®, a novel class of therapeutic proteins based on single-domain antibody fragments, for a range of serious human diseases, including inflammation, haematology, oncology and pulmonary disease. Today, the Company has approximately 25 programmes in the pipeline and five Nanobodies at clinical development stage. Ablynx has ongoing research collaborations and significant partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies including Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck Serono, Novartis and Merck & Co. The Company is headquartered in Ghent, Belgium. More information can be found on www.ablynx.com.
About the Ablynx Nanobody platform
Nanobodies are antibody-derived therapeutic proteins that contain the unique structural and functional properties of naturally-occurring heavy-chain antibodies. The Nanobody technology was originally developed following the discovery that camelidae (camels and llamas) possess fully functional antibodies that lack light chains. These heavy-chain antibodies contain a single variable domain (VHH) and two constant domains (CH2 and CH3). Importantly, the cloned and isolated VHH domain is a perfectly stable polypeptide harbouring the full antigen-binding capacity of the original heavy-chain antibody. These newly discovered VHH domains with their unique structural and functional properties form the basis of a new generation of therapeutic antibodies which Ablynx has named Nanobodies.
About Spirogen Limited
Spirogen Limited (“Spirogen”) was founded in 2001 as a spin-out from several institutions including University College, London. It is majority owned by Celtic Therapeutics. It has developed a novel class of highly potent cytotoxic warheads based on its proprietary pyrrolobenzodiazepines (“PBD’s”), DNA minor groove binding agents, which bind and cross-link specific sites of DNA of the cancer cell. This blocks the cancer cells’ division without distorting its DNA helix, thus avoiding the common phenomenon of emergent drug resistance. In contrast, many cancer chemotherapeutics distort the structure of DNA resulting in the ability of the cancer cells to develop resistance to further therapy. Spirogen has been developing its PBD technology for more than ten years, including a standalone PBD agent already in an NCI-sponsored Phase II study in cisplatin resistant ovarian cancer. Its business model is to partner its technology with pharma and biotech for use in the development of novel drugs. It has a number of industry collaborations, including collaborations with Genentech announced in 2011 and with ADC Therapeutics announced in 2012. For further information, please visit Spirogen’s website, www.spirogen.com.
About Antibody Drug Conjugates
ADCs are highly targeted drug constructs which combine monoclonal antibodies specific to particular types of tumour cells with potent cytotoxic agents (warheads). The antibodies bind to specific receptors (antigens) on the surface of the target cell. Once inside the target cell the cytotoxic agent is released, killing the cell directly. This minimizes the impact on normal, healthy tissues and significantly reduces the side effects associated with chemotherapy treatments. ADCs have extensive potential therapeutic applications in several disease areas, particularly in cancer. The principle can also be applied beyond antibodies, with the possibility of linking warheads to antibody fragments, peptides, vitamins and hormones.