Ablynx, a biopharmaceutical company engaged in the development of Nanobodies, proprietary therapeutic proteins based on single-domain antibody fragments which combine the advantages of conventional antibody drugs with some of the features of small-molecule drugs, recently revealed its plans to expand its immuno-oncology partnership with one of Merck & Co.’s subsidiaries, to increase the number of immune checkpoint modulator targets.
The original agreement was announced in February 2014 and operated on a focus of the discovery and development of 5 predetermined Nanobody candidates designed to specifically address immune checkpoint modulator targets for testing as potential immunotherapies for cancer. The expansion now gives Ablynx a new responsibility over 12 additional Nanobody programs that address individual protein targets and target combinations. After in vivo pre-clinical proof-of- concept stages, Merck will have the option to advance select lead candidates.
According to this 4-year expansion, Ablynx will be entitled to a €13 million upfront payment, comprised of exclusivity fees and FTE payments, and research grants. The company will also receive additional payments depending on how many programs Merck decides to proceed with, along with development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments of up to €340 million per program, and tiered royalties on annual net sales upon commercialization of any Nanobody products. Merck will be overseeing clinical development, manufacturing and commercialization of any products resulting from the collaboration.
Dr. Edwin Moses, CEO of Ablynx, said: “This significant expansion of our collaboration with Merck after less than 18 months underlines the promise offered by our Nanobody platform in the discovery of unique new therapeutic agents. The speed and flexibility of the platform and its ability to develop multi-specific candidates against target combinations is a very powerful characteristic of the Nanobody technology. We are pleased that Merck, one of the leaders in this emerging field, has expanded its collaboration with us and we look forward to continuing our collaboration in the development of these innovative immuno-oncology drug candidates which could potentially transform the treatment of many cancers.”
“Immuno-oncology remains a key area of focus for Merck,” said Dr Joseph Miletich, Senior Vice President Discovery Research and Development, Merck Research Laboratories. “The expansion of this ongoing collaboration with Ablynx allows us to increase our ability to evaluate the potential of more immune checkpoint targets for the treatment of cancer.”