arGEN-X reports adding €3 million ($4.5 million) to its Series A financing round in which it previously raised €9.5 million ($14.3 million). Proceeds will be used to further develop its Simple Antibody™ technology and to build a preclinical pipeline.
The company, based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, was formed in 2008 by a trio of former Ablynx executives to develop a platform based on conventional antibody structures found in the Camelidae family. While Ablynx focuses on producing nanobodies, small molecular weight protein binders derived from heavy-chain antibodies, arGEN-X is exploiting the same source but not the same structures.
Camelids “also have conventional antibodies, like you and me, but no one has ever looked at them,” points out Van Hauwermeiren, who was previously senior business development manager at Ablynx. The variable domains of camelids’ conventional, four-chain antibodies exhibit a high degree of homology with human antibodies. Immunocompetent camelids also generate significant antibody diversity, he adds, and produce highly potent antigen binders, with picomolar affinities.
The company’s Simple (superior immunodiversity with minimal protein lead engineering) Antibody platform is based on immunizing several outbred llamas with human antigens. The variable regions of the resulting camelid antibodies are then grafted onto a human IgG1 antibody backbone, resulting in molecules that appear fully human.
Additionally, the mAbs exhibit ultrahigh starting affinities and potencies without the need for further engineering, according to the company. ArGEN-X is using the technology to find mAbs against novel therapeutic targets and those where standard antibody approaches have failed to generate an optimal lead diversity.
“With substantial funding now in place, arGEN-X is well positioned to execute its ambitious value-creating strategy over the next two years,” reports Tim Van Hauwermeiren, CEO.
ArGEN-X will work on validating the Simple Antibody platform and will progress discovery programs in autoimmunity, oncology, and bone disease. By 2012, at least one program should be ready to enter the clinic, Van Hauwermeiren reported in September when the first €9.5 million round was closed.
The €3 million was raised from Credit Agricole Private Equity and VIB. Philippe Guinot, Ph.D., senior partner at Credit Agricole, joined arGEN-X’ supervisory board. “We believe that arGEN-X has a truly innovative technology and a management team with an impressive track record of building a valuable business in the antibody area,” says Dr. Guinot.