The deal, which could be worth up to $840m, will see Ablynx complete phase II clinical studies for the drug before AbbVie takes up phase III studies, followed by global launch and promotion.
Ablynx will retain co-promotion rights on ALX-0061 in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
ALX-0061 is a ‘nanobody’ drug derived from llama antibodies that is one-tenth the size of human antibodies, and hence better able to reach disease targets.
Ablynx will receive an upfront payment of $175m, and is eligible for further milestone payments of up to $665m as well as royalties.
A phase IIa clinical study of ALX-0061 has shown strong efficacy in 37 rheumatoid arthritis patients with moderate to severe RA.
“This deal represents a major milestone for Ablynx and confirms both the potential value of ALX-0061 and the ability of our Nanobody technology to generate clinical candidates with very exciting potential,” said Edwin Moses, CEO of Ablynx.
“We truly believe that AbbVie’s significant expertise in rheumatology aligns us with the ideal partner to further progress the development of ALX-0061 and to ensure we maximize the potential of this asset.
“We look forward to working together with AbbVie to potentially develop a successful therapy for patients suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions and to making a real difference to the quality of their lives.”
Scott Brun, VP for pharmaceutical development at AbbVie, commented: “This agreement is further evidence of AbbVie’s commitment to pursue novel treatment options for autoimmune diseases. We are looking forward to working with Ablynx to develop a potentially new and effective therapy for patients suffering from serious chronic conditions such as RA and SLE.”