Belgian Biotech Teams Up With Lundbeck to Collaborate on Drug Discovery

confo therapeutics lundbeck gpcr2 1

Confo and Lundbeck have joined forces to push through drug discovery against a tough-to-target protein using Confo’s special technology.

Confo Therapeutics develops small antibody fragments, ‘Confobodies’, that stabilize G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). Although Lundbeck has the exclusive license to commercialize compounds from the collaboration, Confo would receive up to €5M in technology fees, plus milestone payments and royalties depending on annual sales. Confo sees the partnership with such a big player in pharma as “further endorsement of the power and applicability” of its technology.

GPCRs play a role in many essential functions and are implicated in diseases, such as cancer, schizophrenia, depression and neurodegenerative diseases. Confobodies are single domain antibodies that bind and lock distinct conformations of flexible protein targets into place, revealing previously inaccessible structural features. This not only reveals opportunities for new drug targets but could also give a more accurate representation of the side effects profile of a drug candidate.

Confo’s technology can do what others cannot, and lock GPCRs in their active conformation. Christel Menet, CSO of Confo, explained this to us in more detail at Labiotech Refresh 2017 that: “The fact that we lock it [GPCR] in the active conformation means we can do a fragment screen followed by structure-based drug design on these fragments and push them towards a drug.

Presentation by Christel Menet, CSO of Confo, at Labiotech Refresh 2017.

Kim Andersen, Senior VP of Research at Lundbeck explained Lundbeck’s excitement to begin work on a protein that has been difficult to access until now: “The collaboration with Confo Therapeutics will allow Lundbeck to work on GPCRs that we have not been able to address previously. This novel technology will provide high-quality chemical starting points, together with structural information, for this important target class and enable us to initiate new projects in our preclinical portfolio…

The high potential of drugs targeting GPCRs means there is no shortage of biotechs hoping to develop breakthrough compounds. A €3B partnership between Allergan and Heptares Therapeutics yielded a candidate, HTL0016878, which has entered the clinic to treat Alzheimer’s. Before that, Heptares Therapeutics had already been busy, buying G7 Therapeutics for €11M to get hold of its technology that rapidly generates stable GPCRs.

Image – A. and I. Kruk /

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