Bolstering Cancer Platform, Boehringer Acquires NBE for $1.4B USD

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Pharma giant Boehringer Ingelheim strengthened its immuno-oncology portfolio this week by inking an acquisition deal with NBE Therapeutics for a tidy $1.4 billion US.  

This acquisition will significantly strengthen Boehringer Ingelheim’s focus on targeted cancer cell therapies, gaining the company access to NBE’s innovative immune-stimulatory iADC platform.  

"NBE-Therapeutics’ iADC platform adds exceptional tumor-targeting capabilities to our oncology portfolio. Together with our immune cell-targeting assets, this could enable new powerful combinations that will allow for efficacious and durable treatments for patients," said Michel Pairet, member of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Board of Managing Directors with responsibility for the company’s Innovation Unit. 

The Swiss company's antibody-drug conjugates are highly potent to deliver the payload only once bound to the tumor cells, giving them a leg up on traditional cancer therapies that can’t distinguish between tumor cells and healthy cells. Preclinical studies showed not only direct anti-tumor activities but also long-lasting anti-tumor immunity to tumor recurrence.  

Privately-owned NBE currently has its lead candidate, NBE-002, targeting ROR1 in Phase I clinical studies for triple-negative breast cancer and other solid tumors. Initial results for the open-label study are expected in 2021. It has shown remarkably high safety and tolerability measure during non-clinical development.  

The total transaction value for the acquisition also includes contingent clinical and regulatory milestones and is set to close in early 2021. 

"I am extremely proud of the NBE-Therapeutics’ team and delighted that our world-class ADC expertise is being recognized by Boehringer Ingelheim. This transaction is a validation of our platform and its potential for the next-generation cancer therapies," said Bertrand Damour, Chief Executive Officer of NBE-Therapeutics. "We look forward to progressing NBE-002, our lead program and best-in-class anti-ROR1 ADC, and to continuing the fight against cancer alongside Boehringer Ingelheim with its strong clinical development capabilities." 

Since inducing tumor cell death is a key component in the cancer fight, ADC platforms have gained attention lately as a powerful potential for difficult-to-treat solid tumors, while not exposing the rest of the body’s healthy cells to damage. While they’ve been around for decades, not many ADCs have made it to the market yet. The FDA approved the first ADC just this year – Immunomedics' Trodelvy, for treating adult and pediatric glioblastoma.  

With a focus on targeted cancer cell-directed therapies, NBE isn’t Boehringer’s only investment since it began its push into oncology in the mid-2000s. The German company bought ViraTherapeutics in 2018 and cancer vaccine creator AMAL Therapeutics the next year. This year Boehringer added Northern Biologics and cancer vaccine company Labor Dr. Merk & Kollegen to their immuno-oncology portfolio. NBE is the company's first ADC acquisition.

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