This article was originally published in Start Up
The days when drug makers could easily sign deals with front-running antibody developers are over, ended by acquisitions and exclusive arrangements for the most desirable targets. arGEN-X BV believes this is but one dynamic that will attract partners to its therapeutic antibody platform, which entails active immunization of llamas. To flaunt the diversity and potency of its "camelid" antibodies, ArGEN-X aims to raise antibodies to traditionally tough targets, such as membrane-bound proteins like GPCRs.
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From a scientific standpoint, there is little if any need for a new therapeutic antibody manufacturing platform: multiple existing ones generally work well, for those who have licensed rights. But Open Monoclonal Technology Inc. believes its rat-based system has a compelling business advantage: companies coming late to the field can access OMT's technology at relatively low cost, and use it for any targets they wish. OMT itself aims to leverage ownership of the platform to develop antibody "cocktails" or mixtures.
Current technologies for increasing the biocompatibility of engineered antibodies, protein fragments, and other biological agents, such as PEGylation and various protein chaperones, have achieved a maximum half-life extension of about 60 to 80 hours. Frequent dose regimens remain necessary, holding back many potential products. Oligasis Inc. is developing a zwitterionic polymer structure as a conjugate it believes should increase any biological drug's half-life by as much four-fold over the current state of the art.
By now everyone knows that antibodies can make excellent drugs. What is far less certain, albeit widely hoped, is if antibody fragments will also succeed in the clinic. The first wave of candidates is only now entering early clinical trials. Crescendo Biologics Ltd. is one of many firms betting that smaller will prove better: it aims to tailor single-domain fragments and optimize them with a ribosome-display platform.