FRANCE – ABL Biotechnologies, a South Korean biotechnology firm, has signed a global licensing and exclusive collaboration agreement with Sanofi to develop and commercialize a new Parkinson’s disease therapy candidate.

Sanofi has agreed to pay US$75 million up front as part of a deal worth up to US$1 billion for exclusive global rights to develop ABL Bio’s preclinical bispecific antibody ABL301 for the treatment of synucleinopathies and Parkinson’s disease.

ABL301 is made up of an anti-alpha-synuclein antibody and Grabody-B, ABL’s blood-brain barrier-crossing shuttle that targets the Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) receptor.

ABL301 is a pre-clinical stage bispecific antibody that targets alpha-synuclein and the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) to treat Parkinson’s disease and other potential disorders associated with increased blood-brain barrier (BBB) penetration.

Preclinical studies show that ABL301 has a high affinity for pathological aggregates while having a low affinity for monomeric alpha-synuclein.

The drug was able to enter the cerebrospinal fluid and brains of rodent and non-human primate models more efficiently than an alpha-synuclein monoclonal antibody alone by leveraging the Grabody-B platform, which targets IGF1R.

Because it is a non-neutralizing anti-IGF1R antibody, it has no effect on IGF1R signaling while inducing much higher BBB penetration of various treatment antibodies during trials.

Based on these findings, researchers believe Grabody-B could be a safe and effective tool for enhancing the effect of therapeutics against CNS-related disorders.

As per the terms of the agreement, ABL will lead preclinical development and conduct a Phase I trial of ABL301, with Sanofi in charge of further development, regulatory approval, and commercialization.

Aside from the upfront payment, ABL is eligible for up to US$985 million in milestone payments, including US$45 million in near-term milestones, as well as sales royalties.

Novartis agreed last month to collaborate on the development of UCB’s experimental Parkinson’s disease drug UCB0599, a small-molecule alpha-synuclein misfolding inhibitor.

However, the target has also resulted in a number of failures, with Biogen discontinuing development of its alpha-synuclein monoclonal antibody cinpanemab last year following a Phase II failure.

In addition, Roche and Prothena reported mixed results from the mid-stage PASADENA trial of prasinezumab, while AbbVie terminated a collaboration with Voyager Therapeutics to develop alpha-synuclein vectorized antibodies.

Just last week, Sanofi collaborated with British AI firm Exscientia Plc to develop up to 15 drug candidates in oncology and immunology.

The company also invested US$180 million in November for a 10% to 15% stake in the French startup Owkin, to use the latter’s predictive algorithms to improve cancer research and development.

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