Optimum’s top takeaways: Alchemab’s CEO Young Kwon featured on pharmaphorum podcast

2 minutes read

Alchemab’s CEO Young Kwon has appeared on the leading pharma website pharmaphorum outlining the company’s revolutionary approach to antibody technology. 

In the podcast, Kwon outlined how Cambridge, UK-based Alchemab wants to find a new generation of antibody drugs using a novel approach. 

The company is searching through the entire antibody repertoire of the human body looking for antibodies that confer resistance to disease. 

These aren’t just transmissible diseases, but those chronic neurological diseases that develop over time such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

The thinking is to find “protective autoantibodies” that resistant individuals have made to fight these diseases and use them to treat people who have these conditions. 

Alchemab is using some novel approaches to find what pharmaphorum’s editor in chief Jonah Comstock describes as a “breadcrumb trail” to the target. 

Kwon said that Alchemab is studying a group of centenarians, who have reached the century milestone without cognitive impairment, to identify antibodies and other factors that could be used to fight disease. 

He explained: “We think of that as a unique population to look at because clearly they have an immune system and other factors that are involved with keeping them healthy. 

“Oftentimes that’s one of the groups that we screen as part of our evaluation of many different diseases.” 

Alchemab looks for antibodies that look to confer a protective effect in individuals and cohorts of patients. 

Through a partnership with Nvidia, Alchemab uses the UK’s most powerful supercomputer, Cambridge-1, to sift through up to a million antibodies per person to find these potential new drugs. 

It’s all part of the “winnowing” process Alchemab uses to find the strongest signals for potential therapies. 

“We pair the traditional lab work with computational analysis. We use machine learning and AI algorithms to be able to develop fully intact antibodies,” Kwon explained. 

Founded in 2019 inside the offices of SV Health Investors in London by Houman Ashrafian, head of Experimental Therapeutics at Oxford University, and Jane Osbourn OBE, former vice president at MedImmune, the biologics arm of AstraZeneca, and former Chair of the Board of Directors of the BioIndustry Association (BIA), Alchemab is led by a team of scientific experts who hope this new approach will produce medicines for diseases where the conventional target-led approach has failed or fallen short of expectation.  

While it’s still early days for Alchemab – its Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/frontotemporal dementia drugs are still in preclinical development – the company is tackling some of the most notoriously difficult challenges in pharma. 

It’s taken decades and countless failures to produce antibody drugs for Alzheimer’s that targeted beta-amyloid. 

At best, these reduce the cognitive and functional decline in people with early disease and new approaches will be needed to improve on these trailblazing therapies. 

Kwon is hopeful that Alchemab’s pipeline drug candidates could unlock potential new therapies for these debilitating conditions. 

“Each of these is targeting different biology but each of them is producing some very interesting in vitro and in vivo findings,” he said.