Almac Discovery, Elasmogen and Innovate UK Collaborate to Develop VNAR Based Oncology Platform

by | Aug 6, 2018 | News

£2M joint program receives grant to support research into next generation technology

Craigavon, N.I., UK, 6 Aug 2018Almac Discovery, a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and identifying innovative therapeutics for the treatment of cancer, and Elasmogen, an SME focused on the development of next generation biologics, announced today that they have been awarded a grant from Innovate UK through its Innovation in Health and Life Sciences funding programme.


The £2M peer reviewed collaborative project entitled ‘A Technology Platform for Next Generation VNAR based Oncology Medicines’, plans to utilise the highly selective, high affinity and yet low molecular weight non-antibody VNAR protein scaffold and build a versatile platform to facilitate the discovery and development of targeted oncology therapeutics.


The VNAR structure allows ready access for protein engineering of multiple formats.  These VNAR formats can be optimised, with or without conjugation of a cytotoxic payload, with further conversion to soloMER™ format, to become a first-in-class or best-in-class targeted therapeutic.  The two year project optimises both target binding and selectivity, via the identification of novel epitopes and formats, approaches to linker design and payload attachments, and further builds upon the experimental data supporting the unique attributes of VNARs.


Almac first entered into an agreement with Elasmogen for the treatment of solid tumours in 2015.  This new joint research programme broadens the collaborative work by combining Almac Discovery’s expertise in protein engineering and oncology drug discovery with Elasmogen’s expertise in the generation, screening and formatting of VNAR proteins.


Stephen Barr, President & Managing Director, Almac Discovery commented: “We are delighted to have secured this highly sought after funding from Innovate UK to support this novel field of research which is testament to the novelty of the proposed approach and the quality of the underlying technologies involved. It is heartening to be able to continue and also broaden our successful collaboration with Elasmogen so that we may remain at the forefront of oncology discovery and ultimately benefit patients.”


“Given the devastating and wide-ranging impact of cancer on the lives of so many people, there is a continual need to bring new innovative therapies into the clinic” said Caroline Barelle, Chief Executive Officer, Elasmogen. “I have no doubt that by combining the oncology expertise of Almac with the advantages of our soloMER platform that we can deliver a new class of drugs to patients”.


Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency working with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy.


Future research of next generation VNAR-based oncology medicines, as a result of this investment, will be co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovation UK, Elasmogen and Almac Group.




Almac Discovery

Almac Discovery (a member of the Almac Group) is a research driven oncology company dedicated to the discovery and development of novel and innovative approaches to the treatment of cancer. Almac Discovery focuses on the discovery to preclinical stage seeking to licence programmes early with a pharmaceutical partner for further development.  Follow us on LinkedIn or visit


Almac Group

‘Partnering to Advance Human Health’

The Almac Group is an established contract development and manufacturing organisation that provides an extensive range of integrated services to the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors globally. The services range from R&D, biomarker discovery development and commercialisation, API manufacture, formulation development, clinical trial supply, IXRS® technology (IVRS/IWRS) through to commercial-scale manufacture.


The international company is a privately owned organisation that has organically grown over 50 years and now employs close to 5,000 highly skilled personnel. Almac is headquartered in Craigavon, Northern Ireland with operations in the UK, Ireland, across the US (Pennsylvania, North Carolina and California) and in Asia (Singapore and Tokyo).


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Spun-out from the University of Aberdeen in 2016, Elasmogen is developing soloMERs: fully humanized, next generation, single chain therapeutics for auto-inflammatory diseases, ophthalmology, oncology and intracellular delivery.  soloMERs are proprietary humanized clinical candidates derived from VNARS (variable new-antigen receptors) which exist naturally in sharks as high affinity binding domains.  With a different ancestral origin from antibodies this example of 400 million year old convergent evolution places VNARs outside of the complex patent landscape that describes and protects antibody drug discovery and has produced the smallest (9% of the size of an antibody) and most robust naturally occurring binding domain.  Elasmogen is unique in its capacity to isolate and develop soloMERs, with a multi-layered IP position covering the platform, formats, products and process including an exclusive license to over 20 patents granted in the US, Europe and other territories.


Company Contact: Caroline Barelle, CEO, Elasmogen.  Tel. 01224 438545;