PolyTherics gets funding for antibody fragments

PolyTherics has been boosted with £350,000 ($723,135) in funding to explore the development and production of long-lasting therapeutic antibody fragments.

The funding, from the Technology Strategy Board, would see the UK-based biopharmaceutical company team up with UK-based contract biotechnology company Avecia.The companies will collaborate on a two-year project worth more then £800,000 with the aim of producing effective, low cost drugs for diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and macular degeneration.

"We are delighted to have secured Technology Strategy Board funding and to be working with Avecia. This programme will enable PolyTherics to develop products using our TheraPEG technology," PolyTherics chief executive Dr Keith Powell said.Avecia head of process science Dr John Liddell said: "We are very pleased to be collaborating with PolyTherics on this project, which will allow us to combine our award-winning pAVEway protein expression technology with new approaches to therapeutic antibody fragment optimisation and purification.

"The area of therapeutic antibody fragments is a growing one as companies look at ways to develop the biologics in a more cost-effective manner. "There is huge interest at the moment in these potential medicines, they have the binding ability of antibodies but can be produced at a fraction of the cost because they can be made in bacteria rather than expensive animal cell systems," Powell told in-PharmaTechnologist.com."Essentially they are the part of the antibody which gives selective and very high level binding to a target such as the surface of a cancer cell."While the fragments are easily manipulated, are improved for selectivity and affinity, and are cheap to produce, the fragmented size, about the fifth of the size of a full antibody, reduces the half-life of the drugs in patients, meaning the drugs do not remain active in the body for long enough to be effective and patients have to be given frequent doses.

PolyTherics and Avecia will tackle this problem and will work towards developing a process for cost-effective production of antibody drug fragments that are more stable than existing products and have a longer life.PolyTherics has developed TheraPEG, a PEGylation technology platform, which involves coupling a polyethylene glycol (PEG) structure to a therapeutic protein, which acts to reduce the time it takes for the protein to leave the body.

Most traditional techniques involve amine PEGylation where the PEG is attached to free amines on the protein. TheraPEG though, attaches the PEG to disulphides, which have fewer sites, producing a more pure product with a higher yield and a simpler process.Meanwhile, Avecia will utilise pAVEway - its new microbial system for producing high yields of therapeutic proteins.The technology consists of a range of novel vectors for the expression of soluble, secreted or insoluble proteins, corresponding to host strains including E. coli and Pseudomonas, and optimised fermentation processes.The system can achieve expression levels of more than 10g/L for a variety of recombinant proteins such as interferon-alpha 2, tumour necrosis factor-alpha and erythropoietin.

Virginia-based biopharmaceutical company Modigene has also developed a new technology to increase the life span of proteins by attaching a carboxyl terminal peptide (CTP) to the protein.And Merck-Serono is collaborating with US firm Ambrx on the development of a new long-acting growth hormone product, using Ambrx's ReCODE technology, which allows the precise positioning of a PEG polymer.

By : Staff Reporter

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