MRC Technology, the “commercialisation catalyst” that acts as the technology transfer arm of the UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC), has signed a collaborative agreement with Organon, the human healthcare subsidiary of Dutch chemicals group Akzo Nobel, to develop a humanised antibody for the treatment of certain forms of cancer.

Under the agreement, the Therapeutic Antibody Group (TAG) at MCRT will use its proprietary CDR (complementarity determining region) grafting technology to generate a humanised clinical candidate from a murine antibody discovered at Organon’s US Research Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Organon will pay MCRT research and development milestones as well as royalties on any net sales resulting from commercialisation of an antibody product. The Dutch company will retain all development and commercialisation rights. No further financial terms were disclosed.

CDR grafting or antibody humanisation was first invented at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology by Sir Greg Winter and was patented by the MRC in the late 1980s. The technique involves the genetic transfer of mouse CDRs – which are responsible for antigen binding – into human frameworks of a variable region, one domain of an immunoglobulin chain.

As TAG’s director Dr Tarran Jones noted, the Group has a track record of successful antibody humanisation that goes back 18 years and includes some 30 antibodies. Eight of these human antibodies have progressed to the clinic and two – Elan/Biogen Idec’s Tysabri and Chugai/Roche’s Actemra – have gone on to secure marketing approval.

While the MRC owns the intellectual property rights to discoveries made by its scientists, MRCT commercialises these findings by licensing them to industry. Its role includes filing patents on MRC discoveries and inventions, managing the Council’s patent portfolio and negotiating licensing agreements with industrial partners.

MRCT also has its own state-of-the-art laboratories, based at the National Institute for Medical Research in north London. The technology transfer company carries out applied research, including drug discovery, to take forward discoveries made by MRC scientists working at the molecular level. MRCT also engages in collaborative research programmes with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Organon was sold to Schering-Plough for US$14.65 billion in March, a deal the US company expects to complete by the end of this year.