Creation of dedicated discovery unit at Ablynx Discovery and development of Nanobodies ® against multiple targets in Merck Serono's core therapeutic areas GHENT, Belgium, Sept. 26, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Ablynx (Euronext Brussels:ABLX) and Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany,today announced that they have further expanded their relationship through a multi-year research alliance that could lead to at least four co-discovery and co-development collaborations. Under the terms of the agreement, Merck Serono will fund a dedicated discovery group at Ablynx. Both partners will jointly select disease targets against which this group will develop Nanobodies, up to in vivo proof-of-principle. The dedicated group will focus on the discovery and development of Nanobodies against a number of targets across multiple disease areas. The collaboration will span all of Merck Serono's core research and development fields, including oncology, immuno-oncology, immunology and neurology. Dr Edwin Moses, Chairman and CEO of Ablynx commented: "This is a very exciting expansion of our partnership with Merck Serono, building on the success of our existing collaborations and allowing us to exploit the broad and powerful applicability of our Nanobody platform with a partner with whom we have successfully worked for over five years. The new alliance is an early stage discovery initiative, which allows the companies to rapidly explore the potential of novel targets across a range of therapeutic areas and to determine which programmes should be prioritised for later stage development. It is a very interesting model that could create substantial value for both parties and one which we believe could be applicable for us in other partnerships." "We have established a very trustful and productive partnership with Ablynx and a first compound has entered Phase I at the beginning of 2013," added Dr Bernhard Kirschbaum, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Research and Early Development at Merck Serono and Member of the Merck Serono Executive Board. "Through our extensive collaboration history with Ablynx, both sides know how to best conceptually design programmes to ensure technology fit, differentiation potential and a clear scientific rationale. Our common goal is to develop novel biologics with a high degree of differentiation for high-value therapeutic targets." The research alliance will have a term of four years, with the option to extend by two and a half years. Research funding from Merck Serono over the first four years will be over €25 million, including an initial payment of €11.5 million at signing, and will aim to ensure that the collaboration could deliver at least six programmes with proof-of-principle in a relevant animal model.