What are Alphabodies and How Do They Drug the Undruggable?

Philip found out more about a new form of protein therapeutics being developed by Complix, which aims to drug the undruggable.

Mark Vaeck, Co-Founder and CEO of Complix, has over 25 years experience in the biotech and pharma industries. His latest company Complix, a Belgian immuno-oncology biotech, is developing Alphabodies, tiny therapeutic proteins that can enter the cell and bind a target with high specificity. Last year, Complix and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) entered a drug discovery collaboration potentially worth up to €260M.

First, Philip wanted to know how exactly the technology worksComplix is quite unique, due to its technology. Our Alphabodies are in fact small protein therapeutics but with the capability of entering through membranes and into cells directly,” Mark explained. Therefore, Alphabodies combine the advantages of small molecules, with the high specificity of antibodies. “That has been technically possible due to the work we have done at Complix, developing this Alphabody scaffold, which has a pretty unique structure,” he continued.

Mark also co-founded Ablynx, a biotech that develops nanobodies, and he explained the difference between the two technologies: “Alphabodies have an entirely different structure… and it’s that structure in particular that gives them the ability to penetrate through membranes. Of course, through many years of work, we fine-tuned that technology… to optimize that cellular penetration capacity.”

It’s no surprise that with such exciting technology, Complix has raised around €27M in venture financing so far and more than €5M in non-diluted financing from the Belgian and Luxembourg governments. “We’ve raised over €30M in order to develop this fantastic technology that we are now applying to a number of quite interesting and promising intracellular targets.”

€27M is a lot of money for a technology remains at the pre-clinical stage. The company is focused on putting together a portfolio of products targeting interesting intracellular targets that are inaccessible to other drugs. “[The portfolio will show] that we can apply this technology to challenging but mostly interesting targets, and then use these to either further develop them ourselves or to partner some of them with big pharma.”

Finally, a last word from Mark on the exciting news that Complix has extended its partnership with MSD: “We are progressing very well and they are an extremely good partner to work with.” Mark and Philip agreed that the partnership appears to be a match made in heaven, with the combination of Alphabodies and checkpoint inhibitors having huge potential for cancer treatment “the partnership is indeed about intracellular cancer targets and Merck is a leading company in that field.”

With the support of a partner like MSD, Complix stands a good chance at revolutionizing the cancer treatment field, by putting otherwise inaccessible targets within reach.

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