MD Anderson and Boehringer Ingelheim to Partner on Cancer, Found a Virtual R&D Center

Partnership handshake

Ingelheim, Germany-based Boehringer Ingelheim and Houston-based The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center announced a multi-year deal to research advanced therapies for cancers, including gastrointestinal and lung cancers. They will found a joint Virtual Research and Development Center to allow data sharing and analysis.

The deal has a flexible framework, which will allow for a variety of projects at different stages of development over several years. It merges the patient-driven drug-development expertise of MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division with Boehringer Ingelheim’s pipeline of drugs.

The MD Anderson Therapeutic Discovery division is a multidisciplinary group of doctors and researchers working on next-generation cancer therapies. Its TRACTION (Translational Research to Advance Therapeutics and Innovation in Oncology) platform runs advanced translational research to determine how new drugs work and who will receive the most benefit.

“We could not have chosen a better partner with all its research, translational and clinical expertise in lung and gastrointestinal cancers,” stated Victoria Zazulina, corporate vice president and global head of Oncology, Medicine, at Boehringer Ingelheim. “Together, we hope to transform the treatment landscape for these diseases by tackling their root causes and drivers, that have so far remained elusive, exploring new and smart ways of killing cancer cells.”

Click to sign up for newsletters

Zazulina added, “Our innovative oncology pipeline coupled with strong partnerships like this will contribute to unravelling the complexities of these diseases and bringing innovative solutions to people with various types of cancers.”

The Virtual Research and Development Center will focus on two potential types of therapies, including those cancers linked to KRAS gene mutations, and an agonistic antibody for TRAILR2 that can selectively stimulate cancer cell death.

The two organizations formed a partnership in 2015 to focus on drugs for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). PDAC is the most common pancreatic cancer.

The new partnership focuses on GI and lung cancers. There are two main types of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). GI cancers are much broader, and include esophageal (throat) cancer, gastric or stomach cancer, liver, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers.

In mid-July, South Korea-based Bridge Biotherapeutics licensed out its BB-877 to Boehringer Ingelheim for a total deal of about $1.75 billion. This was the second large deal for fibrotic diseases Boehringer Ingelheim inked since the beginning of July.

Under the terms of the agreement, Boehringer Ingelheim is paying Bridge Bio $50.57 million upfront and up to $1.25 billion in milestone payments. On top of that, Bridge Bio will be eligible for royalties on any subsequent marketed product.

BB-877 was originally discovered by LegoChem Biosciences. In 2017, LegoChem licensed the product to Bridge Bio. The compound is in a Phase I clinical trial in the U.S. It is being developed for fibrotic diseases like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). They initial development will be for IPF.

On July 1, Boehringer Ingelheim signed a collaboration and license deal with South Korea’s Yuhan Corporation to develop a first-in-class dual agonist for NASH and related liver diseases. Their focus will be on combining GLP-1 and FGF21 activity in one molecule.

Yuhan has expertise in FGF21 biology, obesity and NASH, while Boehringer Ingelheim has expertise in cardiometabolic diseases. Preclinical studies have suggested that a combination of GLP-1, which is often used to treat type 2 diabetes, and FGF21 (fibroblast growth factor 21) regulates energy balance and is involved in weight loss and blood sugar control, can decrease liver cell injury and liver inflammation. The combination may also decrease or protect against fibrosis.

Back to news