04.10.2012 - Belgian Ablynx secures €8.5m upfront from Merck Inc. for the development of Nanobodies against two targets, one of them yet unknown.
Camelidae antibody developer Ablynx NV (Ghent) has inked a collaboration with US pharma major Merck & Co. Inc (MSD). The companies collaborate primarily to develop and commercialise Nanobody® candidates directed towards a certain voltage-gated ion channel. Merck also acquired the option to do the same for a second, as yet unknown, target. The deal includes a €6.5m upfront payment and another €2m compensation for research funding. With successfully passed regulatory and commercial milestones in addition to secured royalties, Ablynx will be eligible to receive up to €448 million in total. While Ablynx is in charge of the discovery of the Nanobodies, Merck gains the exclusive global rights to market them and is responsible for research, development, manufacturing and commercialisation of any Nanobody® product resulting from the collaboration.
After Ablynx showed the proof-of-principle in 2011, things are going well for the company despite the withdrawal of US pharma giant Pfizer almost a year ago. Edwin Moses, Chairman and CEO of Ablynx commented on the new deal: "We are delighted to initiate this collaboration with Merck in the area of ion channels, where to date, monoclonal antibodies have demonstrated little success. Due to the formatting flexibility of Nanobodies, we are able to combine antibody-like selectivity and multi-specificity in one molecule, making them ideal candidates for ion channel modulators." Nanobodies® are a novel class of therapeutic proteins based on single-domain, heavy-chain antibody fragments. They link conventional monoclonal antibody advantages like high specificity with the benefits of small molecule drugs like low sensitivity to temperature and pH changes. So far, Ablynx has approximately 25 programmes in the pipeline, and seven Nanobodies at clinical development stage, including partnerships with pharma and biotech companies like Boehringer Ingelheim (cancer, Alzheimer’s), former Merck Serono (osteoarthritis), Novartis, and Merck & Co.