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Antibody therapeutics company EvoGenix Ltd., Sidney, Australia, has been awarded a patent by the US Patent Office (patent number 7,166,697) covering its development and use of Evibodies(TM).

Evibodies(TM) are small antibody-like proteins that can be used as drugs or diagnostic agents in applications where whole antibodies may be unsuitable. Evibodies(TM) are only one tenth the size of an antibody and can therefore be manufactured more economically.

Evibodies(TM) add a third aspect to the EvoGenix technology platform by supplying a means of discovering new targeting agents. Once identified, these may then be further improved using the company's highly efficient process for fine-tuning of antibodies and other proteins to increase their activity, called EvoGene(TM) Optimisation.

Antibodies have been highly successful as drugs, with several products reaching the market achieving multi billion dollar levels of sales. This is largely because antibodies act on targets that are not easily attacked by conventional drugs, and because they provide long-lasting treatments. Evibodies(TM) have attachment capabilities similar to antibodies, but may be preferred to antibodies when a shorter time of action, or more rapid penetration of tissues are beneficial. Evibodies(TM) are likely to be particularly useful for diagnostic imaging, for example to highlight the location of tumours in the body and to monitor the progress of cancer treatments.

The use of smaller alternatives to antibodies in some therapeutic and imaging applications is attracting considerable interest in the pharmaceutical industry, as highlighted by recent high value commercial deals. These have included company acquisitions (UK Domantis Ltd for over $A 550 million, US company Avidia for more than $A360 million) and research collaborations (Belgian company Ablynx, collaborating with German company Boehringer Ingelheim in a drug discovery deal worth up to $A330 million).

EvoGenix CEO Merilyn Sleigh noted that Evibodies(TM) were something of a sleeper in the EvoGenix technology portfolio. "We have been looking for the right applications to further develop these very interesting agents," she said. "One benefit is that they blend very well with our other technology capabilities. The grant of this key patent will provide additional impetus to move them to the next stage of development, potentially adding a further valuable plank in the EvoGenix technology platform."

About EvoGenix

EvoGenix Limited has established leading technology capabilities for creating high value antibody and protein-based therapeutics. The company exploits its capabilities through technology collaborations with partner companies, and by development in-house of a succession of wholly-owned antibody and protein products.

Antibodies are natural proteins designed to attack, block and remove unwanted materials from the body. The EvoGenix technology can convert a research-stage antibody into a high potency therapeutic suitable for long term administration to patients. This is a key value-creating step in antibody development.

The technology operates in two stages * Superhumanisation(TM), a superior approach for modifying antibodies generated in animals so that they retain their essential therapeutic properties but appear "human-like" and will not be rejected by the immune system of the patients who receive them.

* EvoGene(TM) Optimisation, a highly efficient, novel process for fine- tuning antibodies and other proteins to increase their activity. EvoGene(TM) technology can also be used to optimise other types of protein pharmaceuticals in addition to antibodies.

EvoGenix is progressively building company value by assembling a portfolio of revenues from technology collaborations using its unique technology capabilities. Multi project collaborations with GlaxoSmithKline and Australia's CSL Limited have been announced in the past 18 months. At the same time EvoGenix is advancing its internal product pipeline, with current products aimed at the treatment of osteoporosis, lung cancer, melanoma and respiratory infections. Generally, these will be out-licensed prior to the clinical stage to meet the existing high demand for new biotherapeutic products in the pharmaceutical industry.

About Evibodies

Evibodies(TM) are fragments of a family of proteins typified by CTLA-4, which are found on the surface of white blood cells where they function in immune reactions. The part of CTLA-4 located outside the cell has a structure similar to that of the binding region of an antibody, and the smaller sections involved in direct target attachment can be modified to provide binding agents with new types of binding specificities. In just the same way as for an antibody, this attachment may be used to block access to the target or to highlight the presence of the target, for example in imaging of tumours. Evibodies are around the same size as the isolated attachment (variable) region of an antibody (called Domain Antibodies by Domantis Ltd), rendering their production more economical and providing them with increased efficiency of tissue penetration, as compared to antibodies.

The patent granted to EvoGenix covers the development and use of Evibodies derived from CTLA-4 and related proteins. It is registered as US patent 7,166,697, entitled "V-like domain binding molecules". The technology is already protected by a patent granted in Australia, with applications still pending in other countries.

There has been considerable interest in the pharmaceutical industry in antibody alternatives for therapy, diagnosis and other applications. UK-based Domantis Ltd, which develops antibody fragments of similar size and related properties to Evibodies(TM), was recently purchased by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline for more than A$550 million. Ablynx, a Belgian company developing camel antibodies (which resemble Evibodies(TM) in size and attachment capacity) completed a collaboration agreement with German company Boehringer Ingelheim worth US$265 million (A$ 330 million) to develop new treatments for Alzheimers Disease, while private US company Avidia was recently purchased by US Biotech company Amgen for a minimum US$290 million ($A363 million) on the basis of its Avimer technology, another antibody alternative for drug and diagnostic development.
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Publication:Worldwide Biotech
Date:Mar 1, 2007

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