WuXi PharmaTech has formed an antibody discovery partnership with US transgenic animals firm Open Monoclonal Technology (OMT).
Through the deal the Chinese firm – the parent company of contract research organisation (CRO) Wuxi AppTec – will use OMT’s OmniRat platform to generate fully-human antibodies directly, eliminating the need to optimise mouse-derived molecules.
Wuxi CFO Edward Hu said: "Providing discovery, development and manufacturing services for novel therapeutic antibodies represents an important new global business initiative for WuXi.
The discovery-focused accord – financial details of which were not disclosed – fits with the dynamics of Wuxi’s current business of late.
In its most recent quarterly report the Chinese firm said that early-phase discovery, development, biology and analytical services at home and in the US were the key growth drivers for its laboratory business.
US-based OMT’s technology is based on transgenic rats, which were modified using genetic engineering techniques developed by company founder Roland Buelow.
Dr Buelow inserted hybrid immunoglobulin loci encoding antibodies with human idiotypes and rat constant regions into rats to overcome suboptimal signaling by the B-cell receptor complex.
He also collaborated with Sangamo Biosciences to use a Zinc Finger Nuclease (ZFN) to delete critical regions of the rat immunoglobulin locus and create functional silencing of endogenous antibody expression.
OMT claims that the approach is superior to antibody production methods that use mouse models, arguing that “The mouse can be expensive to license and pre-existing intellectual property can restrict development options.”
The firm also suggests that the lack of IP hurdles will be of benefit to developers seeking to create new treatments for what is expected to be a very lucrative market.
“With therapeutic antibody sales expected to exceed $50 billion by 2013, OMT's unencumbered, human antibody platform offers unparalleled development opportunities.”