Ablynx NV has agreed a second deal with Merck Serono under which the partners will work to develop one of Ablynx’s Nanobodies (antibody fragments) against an inflammatory disease target. Nanobodies are antibody-based proteins that combine the advantages of conventional antibodies with key properties of small molecule drugs such as high affinity, small size and high stability.
This deal follows an earlier agreement in September 2008, to develop Nanobodies against two targets in oncology and immunology. The second agreement is different in that this time Ablynx will be responsible for all discovery and preclinical development.
Under the terms of the agreement, Ablynx will receive an up-front payment of €10 million and be responsible for all activities and costs, excluding manufacturing costs, up to the delivery of a preclinical package that will form the basis for the filing for permission to carry out a clinical trial.
Upon acceptance of the package by Merck Serono, Ablynx will be eligible for a €15 million milestone payment. Ablynx has the option to continue with Merck Serono up to a 50:50 co-development basis and share the resulting profits, or to convert this collaboration into an exclusive, worldwide licensing deal with milestone payments and significant tiered royalties. Further details of the agreement are undisclosed.
“We are very pleased with the progress made to date in our existing collaboration with Ablynx in oncology and immunology and look forward to expanding it to the area of rheumatology where our research focuses on proteins that modulate key pathogenic mechanisms. We believe that the specific features of Nanobodies have the potential to address some of the challenges in treating autoimmune and inflammatory diseases in general, and rheumatology in particular,” said Bernhard Kirschbaum, Executive Vice President Research and Development at Merck Serono.