Enara Bio, Boehringer Ingelheim Agree to Collab on Immunotherapy Discovery Research

Boehringer_Edt_Michael Vi

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Boehringer Ingelheim has announced it has signed a collaboration and licensing deal with Enara Bio to advance novel targeted cancer immunotherapies. The collaboration, which will leverage Enara’s Dark Antigen™ discovery platform, will work toward discovering and validating novel “Dark Antigens” in up to three tumor types in both lung and gastrointestinal cancer.

Dark Antigens are in reference to a newer class of cancer antigens derived from a portion of the human genome not normally expressed as a protein. This portion of the genome is dubbed the “genomic dark matter.” In healthy cells, Dark Antigen-encoding sequences are often silenced, but on tumor cells these sequences are activated. Most of these sequences are shared across patients, but they are not usually visible to the immune system. According to Enara, Dark Antigens can potentially be developed as targets for immunotherapy agents.

Under terms of the collaboration agreement, Enara gives Boehringer the option to license Dark Antigens for discovery and validation by Enara. Additionally, Boehringer has been granted the responsibility for all non-clinical as well as clinical development. Boehringer also has the responsibility for commercialization of any associated cancer immunotherapies, which include therapeutic vaccines and T-cell redirecting biologics. In spite of this responsibility, Enara will retain the rights to use any antigens discovered in the collaboration program for use in cell therapy products.

Enara is also eligible for an upfront payment from Boehringer, in addition to research and preclinical milestones as well as licensing fees for each tumor type that is investigated. Ultimately, Enara is eligible to be paid over EUR 876 million in clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones. Additional royalties on future product sales will also be directed toward Enara.

“We are excited to partner with Enara Bio as part of our mission to bring transformative new treatments to cancer patients,” according to a statement made by Jonathon Sedgwick, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Global Head, Cancer Immunology & Immune Modulation Research at Boehringer Ingelheim. “We are advancing a unique pipeline of cancer cell-directed agents, immuno-oncology therapies and intelligent combination approaches to help combat cancer. Enara Bio’s unique discovery platform offers a novel and highly differentiated approach that will allow us to look beyond the known proteome to identify and characterize Dark Antigens to support the development of T-Cell Receptor (TCR)-directed immunotherapies and therapeutic vaccines.” Sedgwick added that Boehringer is confident that this is “a highly innovative and promising approach” for the development “of the next wave of cancer immunotherapies.”

“We are extremely pleased to enter this strategic licensing agreement, our first major deal leveraging our pioneering Dark Antigen discovery and validation capabilities,” Added Kevin Pojasek, Enara’s President and CEO. “Boehringer Ingelheim is an innovation-led company dedicated to producing breakthrough treatments with a significant focus on cancer. We are excited to build this relationship and are encouraged that Boehringer Ingelheim shares our view of the potential of Dark Antigens to be a source of important and unconventional targets for novel cancer immunotherapies. This agreement provides strong validation for our science and our approach to exploiting the cancer-associated antigenic repertoire derived from genomic dark matter and we look forward to a productive collaboration.”

This new agreement marks another collaboration partnership agreement from Boehringer. On Monday, Boehringer announced it had also partnered with Google Quantum AI to focus on researching quantum computing for pharmaceutical research and development. The collaboration will last for three years and is led in part by Boehringer’s newly established Quantum Lab.

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