BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Domantis Ltd. sealed a multiproduct deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. for its domain antibodies (dAb) worth $9.2 million in up-front and research payments, plus $20 million per dAb in preclinical and clinical milestones, plus royalties on sales. The aim is to discover and develop dAbs against T-cell co-stimulation targets that cannot be hit by conventional antibodies.

"This is the biggest deal we have done to date across all parameters, from number of targets, to length of collaboration and size of payments," said Bob Connelly, CEO of Domantis. Though the number of dAbs to be discovered has been agreed upon, it was not disclosed by the companies.

As the smallest functional units of antibodies, dAbs combine the benefits of their larger counterparts with those of small-molecule drugs. They can reach a wider range of targets, and because they are only 10 percent of the molecular weight of full-size antibodies, dAbs can be conjugated together to address two or more targets in a single entity. They cost less to manufacture and can be administered orally, or by injection.

"A lot of companies are either working on antibody fragments or novel scaffolds to get around well-known drawbacks of antibodies, such as targeting ability and manufacturing costs," Connelly said. "Typically, all these companies are bunched together. But deals like this are really making our technology stand out from the pack."

Cambridge-UK based Domantis is contributing two of its existing dAb therapeutic programs and will create a new range of dAbs to targets selected by Bristol-Myers Squibb, of New York.

"I would expect multiple products out of this," Connelly said. "The new discovery projects start from today, and the two programs we have contributed are more advanced." He would not say how many programs will be involved or disclose specific targets, but did say T-cell co-stimulatory targets go after "many indications, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and transplant rejection."

Domantis was set up in December 2000 around the discovery of dAbs by Greg Winter, who also was a co-founder of Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc. To date, the company has raised $54 million and is close to completing a third round of funding.

Connelly said he expects to do more deals in 2006 based on dAbs developed in house and that by 2007, both Domantis and some of its partners, (including Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott Park, Ill., and ImClone Systems Inc., of New York) will progress programs to the clinic.

"I think by the first half of 2007, there could be three products in the clinic based on our dAbs, with other programs following close behind," Connelly said.

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