Nanobody selected for Alzheimer's treatment development

Boehringer Ingelheim has selected a nanobody lead candidate from Ablynx for further development in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. This is the first lead candidate emerging from the Alzheimer's research collaboration between the two companies. Boehringer is solely responsible for the development, manufacture and commercialization of any products resulting from the collaboration. Says Dr. Edwin Moses, Ablynx CEO and Chairman, "This lead candidate demonstrates the power of the nanobody platform in addressing a complex disease such as Alzheimer's."

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia in adults and is estimated to affect 4.5 million Americans and over 30 million people worldwide. It's prevalence is projected to double over the next 20 years, and there are currently no treatments that delay or halt the progression of the disease.

Nanobodies are antibody-derived therapeutic proteins that contain the unique structural and functional properties of naturally-occurring heavy-chain antibodies but with important features of small molecule drugs. The 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 harboring the full antigen-binding capacity of the original heavy-chain antibody, however, like small molecule drugs, they have the opportunity to inhibit enzymes and readily access receptor clefts.

Nanobodies have a high homology with the VH domains of human antibodies and can be further humanized without any loss of activity. They also have a low immunogenic potential, confirmed in primate studies with nanobody lead compounds.

Ablynx is developing a portfolio of nanobody-based therapeutics in a number of major disease areas, including inflammation, thrombosis, and oncology as well as Alzheimer's disease. So far, nanobodies have been successfully generated against more than 190 different protein targets including several complex targets such as chemokines, GPCRs, ion channels and viruses, typically very difficult to approach with conventional monoclonal antibodies.

In a related development, Ablynx has extended its anti-TNF-alpha nanobody collaboration with Pfizer for a further year. Under the agreement, Pfizer has exclusive rights to develop and commercialize anti-TNF-alpha nanobodies developed under the collaboration. The lead nanobody-based candidate is in a Phase II study in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The license agreement also includes a research collaboration where Pfizer and Ablynx are working together to discover and develop additional nanobody-based therapeutics against TNF-alpha. TNF-alpha is a key drug target in combating inflammation related disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

- take a look at Ablynx's release