Almost exactly two years after Intarcia turned to the Swiss antibody shop Numab Therapeutics for a stable multispecific antibody that would fit into a once- or twice-yearly therapy for diabetes, the crew at Numab are back with another carefully crafted discovery deal — this time switching focus to immuno-oncology.
Japan’s Ono Pharmaceutical turned to Pfäffikon, Switzerland-based Numab — in the Schwyz canton — to come up with a new, tailored antibody that could make a good combo with Opdivo, the big checkpoint they are partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb on.
If it works, Numab gets up to 258 million CHF, now at near parity with the US dollar, along with royalties. The biotech execs aren’t breaking out the upfront, which is not unusual, but in discovery pacts the front amounts are rarely sizable.
“We have not yet started work on this collaboration,” says David Urech. He and Oliver Middendorp — two co-CEOs — took some time to preview the work, to the extent they can. The deal they worked with Ono will start with a tech platform they built that isolates monoclonals identified in rabbits. They are humanized and a human variable domain scaffold is used to stabilize antibody fragments, which are then assembled in up to six pieces into one molecule with a unique mechanism, complex structures which Numab specializes in.
The development deals they do provide enough cash to operate the company so far, say the co-CEOs.
Their next big milestone is to have their own products in the clinic, say the two colleagues. Those can be partnered after proof of concept data or, if it’s a small niche indication where development costs are manageable, taken on by the 26 staffers at Numab.
In about a year, they say, Numab’s team will swell to 35 as they tackle the growing business at hand.
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