DATE : 2019.06.11
Durham’s Dualogics, Y-Biologics Collaborate on ‘Bispecific’ Cancer Immunotherapies
Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins produced mainly by plasma cells that circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream. The “Y” shape resulted in the company name Y-Biologics.
These antibody proteins are tools used by the body’s immune system to fight off invaders such as unwanted bacteria, viruses and cancers. Antibodies recognize unique molecules, called antigens, on these invading pathogens, and attach to them. Once attached, they can recruit other parts of the immune system to destroy the cells containing the antigen.
Dualogics was founded with financial support from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in 2015. It’s based on technology that was developed in the laboratory of Brian Kuhlman, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Researchers can design antibodies that specifically target a certain antigen, such as one found on cancer cells. They can then make many copies of that antibody in the lab. These are known as monoclonal antibodies
Turns monoclonal antibodies into a double whammy
Dualogics’ technology, called OrthoMab, allows scientists to expand on the monoclonal antibody by making so-called “bispecific” antibodies – a relatively new class of protein-based antibody drugs that can combine two monoclonal antibodies and bind two different targets simultaneously. Using advanced computational and experimental methods, Dualogics partners with industry leaders to use OrthoMab technology for developing bispecific therapeutics for a variety of diseases.
The breakthrough application of this novel class of therapy was initially used in blood cancers, where a bispecific antibody used one arm to bind a cancer cell and the other to bind a T cell. (T cells are a type of white blood cell that develops in the thymus gland and play a central role in the body’s constant disease-fighting machinery known as the immune response).
These newly created bispecific antibodies produced an interaction between the cancer and T cells, activating the T cells and killing the cancer cells. Now there are more than 60 bispecific therapies in clinical development, most for treating cancer.
Simplifies production techniques
Dualogics says it can produce OrthoMab antibodies with standard antibody production and purification techniques, and design them with a variety of molecular properties tailored to specific target proteins and mechanisms of action. The company is focusing on development of two bispecific antibodies -- one for treating autoimmune diseases and the other targeting breast cancer.
Under the terms of the agreement, Y-Biologics will contribute monoclonal antibodies with activity against a variety of immuno-oncology targets. Dualogics will use its OrthoMab technology to design novel bispecific antibodies from Y-Biologics’ portfolio.
The companies did not disclose financial terms of the agreement, but said they will share responsibility for selecting lead candidates and pursuing the optimal development path.
Pointing to important new cancer therapies
“We are pleased to collaborate with Y-Biologics, which has established itself as a leader in antibody development and demonstrated the ability to rapidly discover antibodies for a wide array of targets,” said Ryan Hallett, Ph.D., co-founder and chief executive officer of Dualogics. “We believe that our bispecific antibody expertise combined with Y-Biologics’ antibody discovery pipeline will lead to important new therapeutics for patients fighting cancer.” Hallett's fellow co-founder is Tim Jacobs, Ph.D., chief technology officer.
Young Woo Park, CEO of Y-Biologics, added, “This collaboration with Dualogics opens a new dimension for the antibodies that we have discovered with our Y-max ABL (Human antibody library) and presents the opportunity to create powerful new therapies.”
A $50,000 grant from NCBiotech to UNC researchers in 2015 helped advance the technology toward commercialization, and a $75,000 loan in 2017 helped Dualogics get started. The company has subsequently been supported by the National Cancer Institute and UNC’s Kickstart Venture Services.
Founded in 2007, Y-Biologics is a biotech company in Daejon, South Korea known for its expertise in antibodies. The company is dedicated to the discovery and development of novel antibody therapeutics based on its proprietary human antibody library Ymax-ABL and bispecific technology ALiCE (Antibody-Like Cell Engager).
The company says it aims to be a leading biopharmaceutical company in immuno-oncology by using its two platform technologies.
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