Zurich-based biotech Molecular Partners expanded an existing alliance with specialty pharma Allergan of Bridgewater, New Jersey, to develop ocular products to compete in the $4-billion eye market. Ankyrin repeat proteins (DARPins), designed by Molecular Partners, are a type of protein therapeutic to bind almost any target. “In size it is more like a nanobody or single-chain antibody fragment,” says Arne Skerra, at Germany's Munich Technical University. Another advantage is lower cost of goods. “As DARPins are manufactured in Escherichia coli, they are much cheaper than proteins made in mammalian cells,” observes Alain Beck, at the Centre d'Immunologie Pierre Fabre, Geneva. He rates the DARPins platform as one of the most advanced and interesting of several non-IgG–based protein scaffold platforms now emerging. The agreement includes taking Molecular Partners' MP0260, a molecule targeting both vascular-derived endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet-derived growth factor to a human proof of concept, as drugs for age-related macular degeneration to compete in the same indication as Lucentis (ranibizumab) and Avastin (bevacizumab). The companies are also working on MP0112, a VEGF-targeting protein in phase 2b for retinal disease. Molecular Partners has DARPins in development in inflammation, oncology and other diseases. “To our knowledge, there is no one but Molecular Partners, and our licensed partners, working commercially on DARPins,” says CEO Christian Zahnd.
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Drug Discovery Today (2015)