Since the discovery of nanobodies, these antibody fragments have proven an attractive competitor to monoclonal antibodies as a therapeutic biological drug.

An exclusive worldwide licensing agreement deal between Ablynx and Sanofi was completed in July 2017, with an upfront payment of $27m and the potential to rise to up to $2.8bn. This allows Sanofi to gain global rights to multi-specific nanobodies against selected targets for a total of eight potential nanobody candidates.

With nanobodies having an approximate size of one tenth of standard monoclonal antibodies, these novel molecules retain the ability to bind multiple targets with multiple binding sites in addition to having multiple routes of administration.  

Ablynx has honed into this competitive space as Figure 1 shows the popularity of the biotech’s nanobody platform possessing a favourable number of licensing agreement and partnership deals with pharmaceutical companies.


Figure 2 shows the total deals since 2004 for companies involving nanobodies confirming that Ablynx has dominated the partnership and licensing agreements with some of the major players in the pharmaceutical industry such as Merck & Co, Merck KGaA, Novartis, Novo Nordick, Boehringer Ingelheim, Taisho Pharmaceutical. This also reveals opportunities that remain for other companies involved in research and development (R&D) to infiltrate this market space.

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