Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim has signed a deal with its old partner Ablynx which will look to develop nanobody therapeutics and could be worth up to 1.3 billion euros to the Belgian biotechnology firm.

The agreement involves the discovery, development and commercialisation of up to 10 different nanobodies, a novel class of antibody-derived therapeutic proteins, in areas such as immunology, oncology and respiratory disease. The two firms already have a deal in place potentially worth around $265 million to develop new drugs for Alzheimer's disease.

Under the financial terms of the pact, Ablynx expects to receive 75 million euros “during the research term of the collaboration” which includes 15 euros million in an equity investment by Boehringer. In addition, the Ghent-based group will receive milestones for each nanobody which is developed, of up to 125 million euros, as well as undisclosed royalties and it will also have certain co-promotion rights in Europe. Boehringer will be exclusively responsible for the development, manufacture and commercialisation of any products.

Edwin Moses, Ablynx’ chief executive, noted that this is “by far the largest financial agreement” his firm has signed and the alliance may provide the opportunity to grow the firm’s own product pipeline. The company also has nanobody partnerships in place with Wyeth (rheumatoid arthritis), Procter & Gamble (musculoskeletal) and Novartis (various), while ALX-0081, a therapeutic nanobody targeting von Willebrand Factor, which will reduce the risk of thrombosis in patients with acute coronary syndrome, is in Phase I.