Belgium-based biopharmaceutical company Ablynx has entered a licence agreement with Taisho Pharmaceutical to develop and commercialise its anti-TNFa nanobody, ozoralizumab, to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Japan.
Ozoralizumab is a bi-specific nanobody, which targets TNFa and binds to human serum albumin to treat RA. The drug has clinical Phase II proof-of-concept in RA.
As part of the agreement, Taisho will develop, register and commercialise anti-TNFa nanobody therapeutics in Japan.
Ablynx will receive an upfront payment of $3m and development and commercial milestone payments, including royalties based on annual net sales of anti-TNFa nanobody therapeutics generated in Japan.
Ablynx CEO Dr Edwin Moses said: "We continue to deliver on our partnering strategy for ozoralizumab and are very pleased that this nanobody could now become a potential new treatment option for inflammatory diseases in Japan.
"This is our first step in building a presence in Japan and we are looking forward to working together with Taisho to make this novel treatment option available to Japanese patients living with RA."
On 1 September 2014, Ablynx granted a royalty-bearing licence to Chinese specialty pharmaceutical company Eddingpharm, to develop and commercialise ozoralizumab in Greater China.
Approximately 800,000 patients living in Japan suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. In 2011, sales of anti-TNFa drugs in Japan amounted to $1.2bn representing approximately 1.5% of the total Japanese pharmaceutical market.
According to IMS Health, anti-TNFa medicines will represent the third largest therapeutic class by 2017 in developed markets with an estimated market size of $32bn-$37bn.
Image: X-ray of the hand in rheumatoid arthritis. Photo: courtesy of Bernd Brägelmann.