Boehringer Expands BiomX IBD Biomarker Collab, Shutters Crohn’s Trial

External view of Boehringer Ingelheim's headquarters in Silicon Valley

External view of Boehringer Ingelheim’s headquarters in Silicon Valley

Boehringer and BiomX intend to use the discovery platform to identify biomarkers for a pathogenic bacterium thought to be associated with IBD.

Courtesy of Sundry Photography/Getty Images

Boehringer Ingelheim has forged a second inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) collaboration with BiomX. The two companies will work together to identify biomarkers for the disease using the Israel-based BiomX’s XMarker discovery platform.

Shares of BiomX jumped more than 23% in premarket trading following the announcement. The two companies intend to use the discovery platform, a microbiome-based technology, to identify biomarkers for a pathogenic bacterium thought to be associated with IBD, a term that includes both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD is a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

The two companies hope that the XMarker platform will find biomarkers that could indicate which IBD patients would receive benefit from microbiome-targeted therapies. According to its website, Boehringer is assessing a Phase II kinase inhibitor in combination with Janssen’s Stelara, a drug already approved for Crohn’s disease, which could benefit patients with this form of IBD.

Boehringer was also assessing studying spesolimab, a selective antibody that blocks the activation of the interleukin-36 receptor in Crohn’s. However, that trial has been terminated, according to a notification on Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted priority review to spesolimab as a potential treatment for generalized pustular psoriasis flares.

Carine Boustany, senior vice president and site head of discovery research in the U.S. and head of global immunology and respiratory disease research at Boehringer, said the company is developing a first-in-class pipeline to address unmet needs in IBD. Some of those needs include “complications, utilizing clinical and biomarker measures to identify these patient segments.

“This collaboration will help us advance our understanding of a segment of patients with IBD that may specifically benefit from blunting the recognition of the pathogenic microbiome,” Boustany continued.

The collaboration announced Tuesday builds on a partnership the two companies established in 2020 that focused on identifying biomarkers associated with patient phenotypes in IBD. That collaboration also concentrated on the XMarker platform, which uses a metagenomics-based approach to discover predictive microbial genomic signatures to be further developed into biomarkers, according to company information. The platform combines ultra-high-resolution DNA analysis, AI techniques and high-scale cloud computing resources to build classifiers of high sensitivity and specificity.

Jonathon Solomon, chief executive officer of BiomX, expressed excitement over the new agreement with the Germany-based life sciences company.

“Inflammatory bowel disease is a heterogenous inflammatory condition that remains extremely difficult to treat. By leveraging our unique, ultra-high resolution XMarker biomarker discovery platform, we hope to identify those biomarkers that can pinpoint the presence of pathogenic bacteria associated with IBD. Through this collaboration, we may be able to develop effective biomarkers that can be used to segment patient groups within IBD which could help determine the most appropriate course of therapy,” Solomon said in a statement.

Under the terms of the collaboration, BiomX will be entitled to receive a research payment of an undisclosed amount of money. Additionally, Boehringer will have the option to negotiate for exclusive rights to biomarkers discovered under the deal. BiomX retains the right to use the biomarkers as companion diagnostics for phage therapy.