Ono Pharmaceutical has entered a partnership with Epsilon Molecular Engineering (EME) to advance the drug discovery of the variable heavy domain of heavy chain (VHH) antibodies to develop new therapeutic agents.

The alliance will leverage EME’s humanised VHH screening platform, called The Month, to generate new antibodies against targets chosen by Ono.

Ono will carry out testing to assess the in vitro and in vivo assay activities of these antibodies to discover and develop potential antibody drug candidates.

The collaboration grants Ono rights for the development and marketing of any resulting antibody drug candidates on a global scale.

In return, EME is entitled to receive an upfront payment from Ono in addition to milestone payments determined by future research progress and clinical development.

The Month is a high-throughput antibody screening platform built on cDNA display technology. It enables the rapid acquisition of VHH antibodies against challenging targets when used with EME’s PharmaLogical Library, a humanised VHH artificial antibody resource.

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It can aid in developing antibodies against challenging targets within a month, which is difficult to achieve with standard approaches.

The library represents VHH antibodies’ structural properties, signifying antigen recognition that differs from traditional antibodies.

The latest development follows Ono’s recent research partnership with InveniAI, which focuses on identifying therapeutic targets through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.

Ono previously signed an option and partnership agreement with Numab Therapeutics. The alliance is intended to develop and commercialise the multi-specific macrophage engager NM49 in the oncology field.