Swiss firm 4-Antibody inked a collaboration agreement with Human Genome Sciences focused on the discovery and development of fully human antibodies against HGS targets. The agreement will exploit the firm’s retroviral lymphocyte display technology, Retrocyte Display®, and center initially on two projects. The HGS deal is 4-Antibody’s second alliance with a pharmaceutical company. Its first, signed with Boehringer Ingelheim in 2010, successfully met its first milestone in 2011.
The firm’s Retrocyte Display platform screens human antibody libraries expressed as full-length IgG molecules in immortalized pre-B cells against antigen targets, using a combination of high-throughput, multiparameter magnetic and fluorescence-based cell sorting for antigen-reactive clones. The platform allows antibody candidates for soluble as well as membrane-bound antigens to be identified. Candidates can then undergo in vitro optimization if necessary to improve performance characteristics, and in vivo expression stage is then used to filter out candidates that are less likely to display suitable drug characteristics in patients.
4-Antibody is exploiting the platform to generate an in-house antibody pipeline in the areas of infectious diseases, oncology, and autoimmunity/inflammation, and through antibody collaborations with industry. The most advanced in-house project, focused on human cytomegalovirus (hCMV), is based on a panel of potent and highly neutralizing anti-hCMV antibodies developed in collaboration with scientists at the University of Erlangen, Germany.
Lead antibody 4Ab-028 binds the hCMV gB envelope protein, and has been shown to effectively neutralize hCMV on all relevant target cells including fibroblasts, endothelial cells, dendritic cells, and epithelial cells, 4-Antibody claims. The antibody has in addition been shown to neutralize all clinical isolates tested, which represent all known hCMV genotypes. The program is currently entering IND-enabling preclinical development for the treatment of bone marrow and hematopoietic stem cell patients at risk of hCMV infections.
In May 4-Antibody signed a multitarget research alliance with the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR), that aims to develop antibodies against a series of molecular involved in suppression of the immune response in cancer. Under terms of this deal, the Ludwig Institute will progress resulting antibody candidates into early clinical testing to confirm feasibility, and on the achievement of specified technical milestones 4-Antibody will then be able to look for pharmaceutical partnerships for further development.