Awards Registry

A Platform for Identifying Antibodies That Modulate Human Membrane Receptors Involved in Disease
Profile last edited on: 7/19/19

Program
SBIR
Agency
NSF
Total Award Amount
$975,000
Award Phase
2
Principal Investigator
Carlos Gustavo Pesce
Activity Indicator

Company Information

Abalone Bio Inc

2600 Hilltop Drive Building B Room C332
Richmond, CA 94806
   (510) 288-8776
   N/A
   www.abalonebio.com
Multiple Locations:   
Congressional District:   11
County:   Contra Costa

Phase I

Phase I year
2018
Phase I Amount
$225,000
The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project is to enable the discovery of needed antibody therapeutics in diseases for which there are no available treatments. These therapies act by increasing or decreasing the activity of a type of cell signaling receptor, "G protein-coupled receptors" (GPCRs). Antibodies are highly specific for their targets, an important characteristic for GPCR drugs, as GPCRs comprise a large family of structurally similar proteins. In fact, small molecule drugs for GPCRs often are toxic due to side effects from acting on structurally similar but functionally unrelated GPCRs. This project will develop the first technology that directly identifies antibodies by their ability to modulate GPCR function. These antibodies will impact society's health by treating currently incurable diseases, and strongly impact scientific understanding by enabling the study of GPCR-related mammalian physiology and disease. The commercial impacts are potentially very large. The global GPCR drug market is over $100B, and over half of marketed antibody therapeutics have annual sales of over $1B. The platform described here has the potential to develop many GPCR antibody therapeutics, and thereby generate an enormous amount of value for patients, society at large, and co-development partners.This SBIR Phase I project proposes to develop a platform for discovering GPCR-modulating antibodies. This platform could be critical for generating tools for studying GPCR-related biology and disease, and for developing therapeutics with fewer side effects than small molecule drugs to treat GPCR-related diseases. Developing functional GPCR antibodies using traditional methods is encumbered by the difficulty in producing antigens that represent the GPCR in a functional state, and a lack of high-throughput assays of GPCR function. The proposed platform and method expresses human GPCRs in Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, couples activity to selectable phenotypes, and directly selects antibodies that modulate GPCR function in the same cells. The first objective aims to further characterize the activity and specificity of camelid antibodies ("nanobodies") antagonists that inhibit the endogenous yeast GPCR, Ste2, and then perform agonist selections to identify at least one Ste2 agonist. The second objective aims to further develop the platform to enable interrogating a broader array of human GPCR targets using ScFv antibody libraries, and to identify at least one agonist or antagonist of a therapeutically relevant human GPCR. Positive results will demonstrate the feasibility of the platform.

Phase II

Phase II year
2019 (last award dollars: 2019)
Phase II Amount
$750,000
The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project is to develop a drug discovery platform that will identify novel types of antibody therapeutics. The goal is to use antibodies to increase or decrease the activity of a type of cell signaling receptor called "G protein-coupled receptors" (GPCRs). There are more than 400 non-olfactory human GPCRs that are involved in all aspects of health and disease, including cancers, autoimmune diseases, pain, inflammation, and others. About 25% of GPCRs have been targeted by approved small molecule drugs, but efforts for the remaining have often failed because of the inability of small molecules to distinguish between similar GPCRs. Antibody drugs can overcome this hurdle because of their much higher specificity for their targets. This project will bring to commercialization the first technology that directly identifies antibodies that modulate GPCR function. These antibodies will impact healthcare by enabling therapies for diseases with poor or no current treatments. They also will impact scientific understanding by enabling the study of GPCR-related physiology and disease. The commercial impacts are potentially very large. The GPCR drug market is over $100B, and most antibody therapeutics have annual sales over $1B. The platform described here could enable dozens of novel GPCR antibody therapeutics, creating value for patients, society, and co-development partners. The intellectual merit of this SBIR Phase II project is to develop a drug discovery technology for discovering antibodies that modulate G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). Current methods are limited because GPCR antigens are often not properly folded, and because antibodies are selected by how tightly they bind GPCRs, rather than by the effect they exert. Those that bind typically do not have any effect at all. This project will build on the successful proof-of-concept from Phase I that demonstrated the platform's ability to identify directly functional antibody agonists for a human GPCR. The proposal addresses the four main technical requirements that pharmaceutical customers cite as important: Ability to work on many types of GPCRs, ability to isolate antibodies with varied modulating effects, use of a highly diverse, high-quality scFv library, and a workflow that can quickly isolate, optimize and characterize dozens of candidates. The goals of this project are to improve how the platform's yeasts express GPCRs and functionally couple them to different selectable readouts, construct a proprietary scFv library, and optimize the workflow by incorporating sequencing bioinformatics and antibody characterization, including flow cytometric analysis of cell-binding and functional assays on cultured mammalian cells. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.