Lundbeck Eyes Shark Antibodies for New Brain Drugs

VNAR antibodies may help medications cross blood–brain barrier

Danish drug maker Lundbeck is betting that shark antibodies may offer a new way of getting drugs into the brain to fight Alzheimer’s and other diseases, according to a Reuters report. The company recently made an undisclosed milestone payment to U.S. biotech firm Ossianix after experiments in mice showed the effective transfer of potential drugs across the blood–brain barrier (BBB). Ossianix has developed a platform for delivering biotherapeutic products into the central nervous system using variable new antigen receptor (VNAR) antibodies from sharks.

By fusing an antibody that targets a molecule in the brain to a VNAR antibody from sharks that binds to the BBB transferrin receptor, the therapeutic protein can be shuttled across the barrier. Once inside the brain, it binds to its drug target. This “Trojan horse” approach has many favorable characteristics, including the ability to deliver bispecific antibodies to the brain at therapeutic doses, and can be used in multiple species, including humans, Ossianix says. Getting large-molecule medications across the BBB is a major challenge for drug developers.

The new technology is still years away from producing a marketed medication, but Lundbeck research head Kim Andersen said it had “significant potential” to benefit patients by delivering antibody-based medications and other complex drugs into the brain.

Sharks are as the most ancient animal species to have an immune system similar to that of humans.

Sources: Reuters; January 26, 2017; and Ossianix; January 26, 2017.