Shire and Dutch-Belgian biotech Argen-X have linked up to develop human antibody products to treat rare diseases.

Argen-X says that it will bring its state-of-the-art antibody capabilities to the collaboration for the preclinical characterisation of therapeutic leads. Shire has the option to license the most promising ones.

Under the terms of the agreement, Argen-X will receive an undisclosed upfront technology access fee, research funding and preclinical success payments. Shire will also pay various milestones and royalties.

Tim Van Hauwermeiren, Argen-X chief executive , said his firm is  delighted to "pioneer human antibodies as novel, first-in-class therapies for rare diseases with a partner of Shire’s calibre", saying the latter's  "depth of experience in protein-based therapies is the perfect complement to our own discovery capabilities". He added that "we believe this alliance represents an industry first and we are looking forward to an exciting and productive collaboration".

Philip Vickers, head of R&D at the Shire Human Genetic Therapies division, said that “monoclonal antibody therapy is an underutilised approach to the treatment of rare diseases, and this novel platform has the potential to bring multiple drug candidates into our early-stage pipeline". He added that "partnerships such as this one with Argen-X are an important part of our strategy".