Antibodies anyone?

MorphoSys and Temple University partner for therapeutic antibody discovery

Ilene Schneider
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PLANEGG, Germany—MorphoSys AG and the Moulder Center for Drug Discovery Research, a unit of Temple University’s School of Pharmacy in Philadelphia, recently announced a strategic alliance focused on the discovery of new therapeutic antibodies.
The agreement gives the Moulder Center access to MorphoSys’ Ylanthia technology for use in validating new disease-related targets and generating therapeutic antibody candidates. MorphoSys gets an exclusive option to develop any resulting antibodies.
While the financial details of the agreement were not disclosed, Dr. Magid Abou-Gharbia, associate dean for research in Temple’s School of Pharmacy and director of the Moulder Center, believes that the commercial potential is “huge.” As he explains, “For every disease, you want to give patients multiple choices for a cure. Antibody display technology provides a good starting point for optimization.”
MorphoSys, founded 20 years ago, has developed from a pure antibody platform enterprise into a biopharmaceutical company. Together with its pharmaceutical partners, MorphoSys has built a therapeutic pipeline of more than 80 human antibody drug candidates for the treatment of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Ylanthia antibody library consists of more than 100 billion distinct, fully human antibodies. The library uses 36 fixed, naturally occurring heavy and light chain framework combinations. It is specific for targets, stable, easy to use and optimized for development, according to Dr. Claudia Gutjahr-Löser, head of corporate communications and investor relations at MorphoSys.
“Ylanthia is one of the most productive libraries on the market, and Temple’s Moulder Center can use the technology to get interesting targets,” she says. “We’re still doing basic research and are possibly three to five years from clinical development, but we have to think about it now and assume that universities and biotech companies will use the technology.”
The Ylanthia library will be installed at Temple’s Moulder Center for Drug Discovery Research, a multidisciplinary drug discovery research hub, for the further development of scientific discoveries identified by Temple University faculty and scientists, as well as its external academic and industrial partners, into novel therapies. Temple’s Biotherapeutics Discovery Unit—under the leadership of Dr. Jon Condra, associate professor of pharmaceutical biotechnology at Temple and a member of the Moulder Center—is dedicated to working on drug design and lead optimization in multiple disease areas, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular, metabolic and viral diseases.
The Moulder Center for Drug Discovery Research was established in 2008. The center is actively pursuing collaborative research opportunities within Temple University and with external collaborators in the academic community, as well as industrial partners both in the United States and abroad. Moulder researchers are dedicated to facilitating these collaborative research efforts to support the discovery and development of novel therapeutic agents to improve the health and life of patients. The center is led by its founding director, Abou-Gharbia, who has more than 26 years of pharmaceutical industry experience.
Condra said he is “very much looking forward to cooperating with MorphoSys” and added: “The highly specific and fully human antibodies that we will be able to generate with Ylanthia will form the ideal basis to discover new therapeutic agents. Collaborations with a strong industrial partner like MorphoSys contribute substantially to the scientific advancement of drug discovery and development.”
Abou-Gharbia says that Temple’s Moulder Center brings the drug discovery expertise while MorphoSys brings the antibody phage display capability. “In enhancing our facilities and capabilities at the Moulder Center for Drug Discovery Research, we are focused on efficiently generating research data using a host of technologies and tools,” he explained. “Our new collaborative effort with MorphoSys will provide our faculty, staff and students with the cutting-edge scientific tools necessary to identify the next generation of antibody therapeutics.”
“The collaboration with Temple embeds our latest technology, Ylanthia, in the scientific community and has the potential to expand our pipeline of exciting new drug candidates in the long term,” commented Dr. Marlies Sproll, chief scientific officer of MorphoSys AG. “Access to novel disease-related target molecules is a key asset for any biopharmaceutical company, and this alliance leverages our Ylanthia technology to source potentially interesting antibody leads for therapeutic applications.”

Ilene Schneider

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