Nanobody assisted drug discovery

Publication date 15.01.2014

The VUB’s Structural Biology Brussels (SBB) is part of the Flanders Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) Structural Biology Research Center. In 2010, Els Pardon and Jan Steyaert of SBB discovered Nanobodies (Nbs) - single chain camelid antibodies – that constrain a G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) in its active conformation. GPCRs are one of the most important drug target classes. This research was funded by IOF-VUB, SBO-IWT and Innoviris. With the Nb assisted elucidation of the first GPCR structure in its active state - resulting in several Nature papers - SBB contributed to the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 awarded to Prof Brian Kobilka and Prof Robert Lefkowitz.

Els Pardon and Toon Laeremans were initiated in Nb technology whilst in the research group of Prof Serge Muyldermans. Els joined SBB in 2007 to lead the Nb identification programs for international academic collaborations, resulting in high-end Nb assisted protein crystal structure papers. Toon Laeremans joined SBB in 2010 to create a business unit ‘Xaperones’ commercializing Nbs as crystallization tools. Nanobody technology has already resulted into two spin-offs: Ablynx develops Nanobodies for therapeutic use - Toon was one of its first employees – and Agrosavfe for agricultural applications. Based on the groundbreaking Nb assisted crystallography work covered in three patent families and with the support of the VIB and the VUB Technology Transfer Interface, SBB aims to translate ‘Xaperones’ into a third spin-off focusing on Nb assisted drug discovery.