* Ablynx CEO expects development deals in emerging markets
* Says has seen interest from South Korea after deals in
* Belgium is a hub for biotech firms due to favourable tax
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Nov 28 Belgian biotech company Ablynx
is hopeful of finding partners to develop its
therapies in emerging markets next year, its chief executive
told Reuters on Thursday.
Belgium's biotech industry has expanded in the past decade
because of tax breaks covering patent income and research
workers' salaries, and a string of companies have listed on the
Brussels stock exchange.
Ablynx, a specialist in nanobodies - antibody-derived
proteins targeting disease - has had a hectic 2013, notably
scoring a global licensing agreement with AbbVie in
inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The company has also increased its "discovery partnerships"
with large pharmaceutical groups looking for possible treatments
for particular ailments.
Established as a spin-off of the Free University of Brussels
and the life sciences institute VIB in 2001, Ablynx has a large
portfolio of experimental drugs, none of which have yet reached
The loss-making firm, which has a market capitalisation of
about 350 million euros ($475.10 million), makes its revenues
through development deals with large pharmaceutical groups such
as Merck Serono, Abbvie and Boehringer Ingelheim.
"I think next year it's more likely you'll see emerging
markets (development) partnerships, then maybe one or two
discovery partnerships," Chief Executive Edwin Moses said.
Nanobodies, typically a 10th the size of an antibody, can
target the causes or symptoms of diseases and disorders. They
can penetrate further and be manipulated more than an antibody.
They can be derived from camels, llamas and alpacas and two
species of shark. Ablynx uses llamas.
CHINA, SOUTH KOREA
Last month, Ablynx granted a licence to Chinese company
Eddingpharm to sell its nanobody treating bone disorders such as
osteoporosis in China, which would give it royalties of up to 20
percent of future sales.
Moses said the deal had triggered interest from other Asian
countries, including South Korea.
Ablynx is looking towards China too for its anti-TNF drug
ozoralizumab, which could treat inflammatory diseases such as
rheumatoid arthritis and has reached the Phase II trial stage.
This is because there are five existing anti-TNF drugs,
including AbbVie's Humira, in developed markets.
"We are looking at the emerging markets where the
competition is less well-entrenched. It's more likely that if we
get a partner here it will be in somewhere like China," said
China offers potential to Ablynx because regulations there
dictate that new entrants have to start back with Phase I trials
with Chinese patients, even if they have approval elsewhere.
"That's why in this case we are not so far behind the
competition because they're having to develop from scratch in
China," the chief executive said.
"I think you'll see an increasing demand from emerging
markets as they become more affluent for these newer drugs as
they become available," he added.
One of Ablynx's more advanced therapies, to treat RSV
(respiratory syncytial virus) infections, which typically affect
children, would most likely have to wait for a partner until
2015, when trial data should be due.
Moses said he expected the company's first drug to enter the
market around 2018.
Ablynx has been loss-making since it listed its shares on
the stock market in 2007. It had revenues of 26.7 million euros
in 2012, a 22 percent increase on the year before. Its net loss
fell to 28.5 million euros from 43.9 million in 2011.
($1 = 0.7367 euros)
(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek
and Pravin Char)