Mitsubishi joins Eisai, 3SBio's bet on multispecific antibodies, upping Numab's Series B haul to $23M+
Following a busy year of dealmaking, Swiss antibody shop Numab has closed a Series B at CHF22 million ($23.87 million) to double down on its multispecific molecules for immuno-oncology and grow its team.
The bulk of the cash comes from familiar names. China’s 3SBio already committed CHF15 million ($15.2 million) when its subsidiary Sunshine Guojian signed onto a regional development and commercialization deal late last year. Eisai, which is in for a discovery pact, chipped in alongside Mitsubishi UFJ Capital and Daniel Vasella — the former CEO of Novartis and a Numab board member.
They took years to figure out, but Asia deals such as these have provided much of the firepower for Numab’s preclinical projects. Suzhou-based CStone, for example, is picking up the tab on the ongoing GLP tox and other IND-enabling studies for Numab’s lead program, ND021, leading up to proof-of-concept slated for this summer.
“That’s generally a strategy which we like a lot,” CEO David Urech tells Endpoints News, “the regional partnering [at] the early stage in exchange for global development funding.”
While Numab also has programs in place for inflammatory bowel disease (partnered with Tillotts) and inflammatory diseases (Kaken), with the new equity financing Urech wants to focus on applying Numab’s multispecific platform to immuno-oncology.
The platform comprises three steps, Urech explains: First, they “exhaustively characterize” the immune repertoire of a rabbit and isolate the antibodies with desired properties; then, taking only the variable domains (or the Fv region) and leaving the Fc domain behind, they stabilize them and stitch them together to form a multispecific.
After years of ploughing the field, drug hunters are beginning to appreciate the value of rabbit antibodies, he says. One of the drugs he helped develop while leading R&D at Esbatech — then known as ESBA1008 — eventually became Novartis’ answer to Regeneron’s blockbuster Eylea franchise (though Beovu has recently been marred by safety concerns).
Meanwhile, the ability to group three to six variable domains together dramatically expands the therapeutic design space.
Take ND021, a trispecific that hits 4-1BB, PD-L1 and HSA. The binding to PD-L1 on tumor cells — which Urech calls “best in class” for its high potency — triggers activation of the 4-1BB receptor on T cells, thereby avoiding toxicities that have limited development of 4-1BB drugs. HSA binding is designed to allow for a longer half-life.
“It gives us much more optionalities if we have more than just two functions,” Urech says.