Small nanobody drugs win big backing from pharma

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NATURE MEDICINE, NOVEMBER 2013|
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“The field [of nanobodies] has matured a lot,” says Michiel Harmsen of Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands, who has studied nanobodies for veterinary applications and in animal models of disease. “There was this initial thought that nanobodies were these weird half antibodies that wouldn’t be as effective as conventional antibodies, and the opposite has turned out to be true in many cases.”

At the same time as Ablynx’s nanobodies are showing their clinical potential, a handful of new pharma start-ups are hopping into the field. VHsquared, based in the UK, aims to develop single-domain antibodies for use in the gastrointestinal tract; Canada’s AbCelex Technologies is engineering small antibodies for diagnostic and environmental applications; and AgroSavfe, in Belgium, is applying nanobody technology to issues of food safety.

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