Updated on 2 October 2012
Alliances is the way forward
Antibody expertise of one partner combined with commercial capacity of another is considered as a viable strategy to build the market in Asia. Keeping with this, a number of alliance deals have come to the fore in this market in the recent past. China-based WuXi PharmaTech entered into an alliance with Open Monoclonal Technology (OMT), an innovator in novel transgenic animals, for development of human therapeutic antibodies. The OmniRat technology generates fully human antibodies with great specificity, affinity and manufacturability. It eliminates time-consuming humanization of traditional mouse-derived antibodies and the need for optimization of lead candidates using phage display technology.
"OMT's collaboration with WuXi is initially focused on creating human antibodies against a series of clinically validated targets that WuXi can develop into preclinical stages using their integrated R&D infrastructure and subsequently license to third parties in China and around the world," says an OMT spokesperson who did not want to identified. "Such licensees may further continue to access WuXi's R&D services to clinical stage."
Commenting on the trend, the spokesperson adds that collaborations are critical for research institutions and industry to benefit from each other's strengths. "OMT is making its OmniRat platform available to academia worldwide as discoveries made by them can subsequently be licensed by industry and taken to the market place," he adds.
The spokesperson mentions that there are a number of trends in the market, such as adding toxic payloads to naked antibodies and making antibodies polyvalent (for example bispecific). "After Amgen's acquisition of Abgenix and BMS's acquisition of Medarex, there are only few providers of transgenic animal platforms for generation of human antibodies. We are expecting increased commoditization of human antibodies," he says, adding that OMT plans to lead the trend.
Investors and fund managers are also considering antibodies to be a lucrative domain and are showing interest in enriching research in the area. For instance, UniQuest, the University of Queensland's main commercialization company, has facilitated a research and antibody production agreement with support from investment company Medigen.
Japan's Chugai Pharmaceutical is investing $163 million (S$200 million) over the next five years in Singapore to generate new antibody candidates with its recycling and sweeping antibody technologies. Recycling antibodies can bind to the antigen multiple times by recycling the antibody whereas conventional antibody can bind to the antigen only once. Sweeping antibodies can actively eliminate the target antigen from the plasma in addition to binding to the antigen. The company is looking for significant improvements in therapeutic effects on numerous diseases that were previously considered impossible with conventional antibodies.