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Pharma, Synthetic Bio Companies to Find Antibody Therapies

DNA chip graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

10 Sept. 2021. A pharmaceutical company and developer of synthetic genomic materials are collaborating on discovery of therapeutic antibodies to treat a range of diseases. The deal with drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH in Ingelheim, Germany could bring Twist Bioscience Corp. in South San Francisco as much as $710 million in milestone payments.

Twist Biosciences develops synthetic genetic materials on a silicon platform, patterned after semiconductors, instead of traditional plastic plates and receptacles. This process, says the company, overcomes conventional limitations and inefficiencies to design and construct genes, and from these synthetic genes, produce libraries of genetic variations. Moreover, Twist Biosciences created a subsidiary, Twist Biopharma, that applies the technology to create collections of synthetic antibodies the company says match genomic sequences occurring in the body.

These collections, says Twist Bio, are made from phage display libraries, protein interactions derived from viruses that infect bacteria called bacteriophages, and a tool used increasingly to discover immunotherapies. Under the agreement, Twist Biopharma will use its collections of phage display libraries, or “library of libraries” as the company calls it, to identify therapeutic antibody candidates that match existing human genomic sequences.

Antibodies that control blood glucose

Twist Bio and Boehringer Ingelheim will collaborate on optimizing and validating these antibody candidates. And Boehringer Ingelheim will gain exclusive worldwide rights to further develop and commercialize antibody therapy candidates discovered in the partnership. Twist Bio will receive an undisclosed initial payment for each antibody program created from the partnership, and as much as $710 million for achieving clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones for the anticipated multiple antibodies.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in March 2021, Twist Bioscience published a paper on synthetic antibodies it discovered that control blood glucose levels in lab animals. The company discovered these antibodies from a phage display representing some 10 billion receptor proteins, with the researchers focusing on glucagon-like peptide 1, or GLP-1 receptor agonists known to promote insulin production. This screening tool, say the authors, made it possible to find 13 antibody candidates with desirable binding properties and peptide chemistry. Also among the candidates are antibodies that depress GLP-1 receptors, which can help reduce hypoglycemia incidents.

From these antibodies, the Twist Bio team created synthetic antibody drug candidates addressing GLP-1 receptors. And the researchers designed another synthetic antibody, this one acting as an antagonist or reducer of GLP-1 receptors.

Boehringer Ingelheim expects the partnership to add more innovative product candidates to its pipeline. Clive Wood, who heads drug discovery research at the company says in a statement, “Boehringer Ingelheim believes Twist’s ability to generate potent, diverse therapeutic antibodies by mining its comprehensive libraries, combined with our extensive capabilities and experience in drug discovery and development, will enable us to deliver breakthrough opportunities to patients.”

Emily Leproust, Twist Bio’s co-founder and CEO adds, “We have the ability to generate precise antibodies to a diverse range of targets, which together with Boehringer Ingelheim’s strength in drug development capabilities, could mean multiple new, more personalized treatments in the future for patients.”

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