Boehringer Ingelheim Targets Stroma-Rich Cancers in Potential $509M AI Deal

Boehringer Ingelheim_iStock, Sundry Photography

Pictured: Boehringer Ingelheim building/iStock, Sundry Photography

Boehringer Ingelheim is striking a deal to leverage artificial intelligence for some of the hardest to treat cancers. Phenomic AI announced a collaboration agreement with the pharma giant Wednesday. 

The Toronto and Boston-based biopharma is getting a $9 million upfront payment with another potential $500 million on the line in milestones and royalties to discover targets for stroma-rich cancers. 

The stroma-rich cancer category is among the most difficult to treat. Including types like colorectal and pancreatic, the tumor stroma in these cancers provides a hard-to-penetrate barrier around the tumor that both protects the cancer and helps feed it. Phenomic’s platform is focused on targets that can break through the stroma to target the protected tumor.  

The pact is intended to expand Boehringer’s pipeline for stroma-rich cancers, which account for a large majority of cancer deaths every year, the company said in a statement. Boehringer already has an asset in a Phase II trial for advanced pancreatic and biliary tract cancer.  

Phenomic will utilize advanced AI with its single-cell RNA computing platform and unique stromal models to identify novel targets for its new partner. Boehringer then has the option to license targets discovered and take them through development and commercialization, if successful. 

AI is on the rise as a growing number of big pharma companies tap an AI-powered partner to speed up therapeutic R&D. AWS, an Amazon company, announced Tuesday a new partnership with Amgen to generate AI-based solutions to “help discover, develop, and increase the manufacturing throughput of medicines,” the company said in a statement. 

The AI-company will also be utilized for Amgen’s latest state-of-the-art medicines assembly and packaging facility in Ohio. The new location will feature advanced digital and robotic technology, with a connected digital platform powered by AWS’ machine learning service–Amazon SageMaker. 

The expansion will create new jobs for the Columbus area. A June 2021 press release stated plans to hire up to 400 full-time staff at the location, which is scheduled to be completed next year.  

In September 2023, Germany’s Merck KGaA struck partnerships with BeneveloentAI and Exscientia, both AI-driven companies, to facilitate accelerated drug discovery with a higher probability of success. AstraZeneca has been collaborating with BeneveolentAI since 2019. 

Kate Goodwin is a freelance life science writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be reached at and on LinkedIn.   

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