$840m licensing deal shows support for antibody fragments

Belgian biotech firm Ablynx has agreed a global licensing deal with Abbvie for its nanobody drug candidate ALX-0061. The cut-down antibody fragment targets the interleukin-6 receptor, and is in Phase II clinical trials against rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Abbvie will pay $175 million (¬£110 million) up front, some of which Ablynx will use to complete Phase II trials. Depending on performance, Abbvie has agreed to in-license the drug and take responsibility for Phase III clinical development.  Abbvie will also pay up to $665 million in performance milestone payments, plus royalties on any eventual sales.