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Boehringer Ingelheim and Ablynx sign GBP 136.5 million R&D agreement

Privately owned German ethical pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), and Belgian nanotechnology firm, Ablynx, have signed an exclusive worldwide licensing and R&D agreement worth approximately USD 265 million (GBP 136.5 million) to discover and develop new therapies for Alzheimer's disease (AD), using Ablynx's proprietary Nanobodies

Privately owned German ethical pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), and Belgian nanotechnology firm, Ablynx, have signed an exclusive worldwide licensing and R&D agreement worth approximately USD 265 million (GBP 136.5 million) to discover and develop new therapies for Alzheimer's disease (AD), using Ablynx's proprietary Nanobodies.

Ablynx's Nanobodies, which are a novel class of therapeutic proteins, can cross the blood-brain barrier, currently an obstacle to large molecule drugs and conventional antibody treatments. The technology is derived from naturally-occurring heavy-chain antibodies and can be administered by injection, orally or in sprays or transdermal creams, thus overcoming the delivery issues associated with full-sized antibodies currently only deliverable by injection.

Nanobodies can also address therapeutic opportunities beyond the reach of conventional antibodies or their fragments. For example, they could target epitopes, such as receptor clefts, enzyme active sites and viral canyon sites.

BI will begin a joint research programme involving Ablynx researchers, with BI solely responsible for the development, manufacture and commercialisation of products resulting from the partnership.

The deal includes an upfront fee, development and commercial milestones, with Ablynx also to receive undisclosed royalties based on net sales.

Dr Andrea Barner, vice-chairman of the board of managing directors and head of corporate board division pharma research, development and medicine at BI, said of the collaboration: "We look forward to working with Ablynx to discover new Nanobodies. We are very excited about the opportunity to develop new biological entities for treating AD based on this powerful and unique technology."

Dr Edwin Moses, CEO of Ablynx, added: "Boehringer Ingelheim has developed considerable expertise in the field of neurological diseases including AD. Combined with its biologic biopharmaceutical capabilities, we believe it is the ideal partner to ensure that we maximise the therapeutic potential of Nanobodies. There is a growing serious unmet medical need to treat AD, which urgently requires new and innovative approaches."

Ablynx has raised over EUR 70 million (GBP 46.9 million) from an investor consortium which includes Abingworth Management (UK), Alta Partners (US), Biotech Fund Flanders (Belgium), Gilde Investment Management (Netherlands), GIMV (Belgium), KBC (Belgium), Sofinnova Partners (France) and SR One (USA). Ablynx's founding institutions, VIB and VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussels) have contributed basic Nanobody patents.

In 2005, BI posted net sales of EUR 9.5 billion and spent approximately one fifth of this figure in its largest business segment Prescription Medicines on R&D.

9th January 2007

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