The biopharmaceutical company Almac Discovery – part of the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Almac Group –and Elasmogen, a University of Aberdeen spin-out firm, have been awarded a grant from Innovate UK.
The companies applied for the grant to support development of a technology platform for next generation VNAR-based oncology medicines.
According to Martin Wiles, VP of business development and licensing at Almac Discovery, “The aim of the research is to develop an understanding of the critical parameters involved in VNAR product development for oncology so that the resulting platform can be used for new product development.”
Wiles explained that VNARs are very small, highly specific biologic binders. They can potentially be used for better penetration into tumors, easier production, and higher stability relative to antibody biologic drugs.
Caroline Barelle, CEO of Elsamogen, told us that Almac Discovery decided to collaborate with Elasmogen because of their ability to work with VNAR.
“They [VNAR] are incredibly robust, and soluble and are single-chain…we can link them very easily into one molecular entity, and they are capable of binding more than one target, which increases the level of selectivity when you’re developing a therapeutic drug,” said Barelle.
Barelle furthered that VNAR cells have a unique shape and structure that enables them to bind to clefts of molecules, allowing research to begin to develop drugs that could possibly bind to parts of molecules that we were once thought to be “undruggable.”
Wiles said, “The aim of the research is to develop an understanding of the critical parameters involved in VNAR product development for oncology so that the resulting platform can be used for new product development.”
To which Barelle furthered, “What always drives us is to really bring new effective drugs to patients. We see currently, that more and more people are being diagnosed with cancer. Now more than ever we are able to understand the complexity of cancer. What we would like to be able to do is improve and refine the drug biologics that are out there today.”
The grant was provided by Innovate UK, but should any future research of next generation VNAR-based oncology medicines occur from the investment, they will be co-founded by Innovate UK, Elasmogen, and Almac Group.
The two companies first entered an agreement for the treatment of solid tumors in 2015.