BioWorld International Correspondent
PARIS - Ablynx NV completed a second-round financing in which it raised €25 million through the issue of preferred stock.
The lead investor was Alta Partners, of San Francisco, while Abingworth Management, of London, also participated. So did Ablynx's four existing shareholders: GIMV, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Biotech Fund Flanders (managed by GIMV); Sofinnova Partners, of Paris; and Gilde Investment Management, of Haarlem, the Netherlands.
The funding brings to €32.4 million the total money brought in by Ablynx, of Ghent, Belgium, since it was founded in 2001. It completed an initial financing in May 2002 that netted it €5 million, while in early 2003 it was awarded a two-year grant of €2.4 million by the Belgian government.
Business Development Director Simon Kerry told BioWorld International that this was "one of the most straightforward funding rounds I've been involved in." He said Ablynx now has sufficient resources to take it to 2007, even though clinical development of its lead compound is scheduled to start in 2005 and it will be recruiting people to strengthen its preclinical and clinical development capability (it has a work force of 30 at present). Also, it expects to conclude research collaborations and technology-access deals that would bring in income.
Ablynx is developing therapeutic antibodies based on nanobody technology. Nanobodies are the smallest fragments of naturally occurring single-domain antibodies that have evolved to be functional in the absence of a light chain. They combine the advantages of conventional antibodies with some of the features of small-molecule drugs and, Ablynx said, represent a class of potential therapeutics since they can act on therapeutic targets that are not easily recognized by conventional antibodies.
Furthermore, Ablynx said, nanobodies can be produced cost effectively on a large scale, they have a long shelf life and can be administered through non-injectable means.
Ablynx has generated leads against 16 human disease targets in a range of therapeutic fields, focusing on oncology, inflammation and autoimmunity. Two of those leads are in preclinical development in cancer and inflammation, and clinical trials of the first are expected to begin next year. Kerry said the inflammation program is the more advanced of the two.
He confirmed that Ablynx was entering research collaborations with other biopharmaceutical companies to broaden the range of therapeutic targets and pathologies in which its technology is applied. In particular, Ablynx is interested in companies that bring their own targets and handle the development of drug candidates themselves, Kerry said. But while it already had some programs available for licensing, the company's "long-term growth will come from licensing out clinical programs," he said.
Ablynx's intellectual property is protected by more than 50 patents and patent applications describing the structure, discovery, manufacture and use of nanobodies, and its IP portfolio includes composition-of-matter patents issued in the U.S. and Europe.