Boehringer Ingelheim has entered a research collaboration and licensing agreement with biopharma company Trutino Bioscience, with the aim of developing new cancer immunology compounds.
The agreement will leverage Trutino’s On-Demand-Cytokine (ODC) platform, which is designed to mask the activity of cytokines until they reach the targeted tumour site and become fully activated.
This means the ODC molecules do not endure systemic exposure, leading to a potentially higher margin of safety and improved efficacy when compared to standard cytokine treatments.
Under the terms of the agreement, Trutino will generate the new ODC molecules and carry out preclinical validations, before handing over the development to Boehringer for late pre-clinical testing through to late-stage development.
Boehringer has paid Trutino an undisclosed upfront sum for access to its technology and expertise, with the biopharma company set to receive subsequent payments based on clinical development, regulatory and commercial milestones, as well as royalties on future product sales.
“We are excited to embark on this partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim, a leader in cancer immunology, to advance cytokine therapeutic options that address the unmet medical needs of patients worldwide,” said Philip Kim, founder and CEO
Boehringer has been expanding its presence in immuno-oncology of late, with a number of agreements and buyouts aimed at bolstering its pipeline.
That includes the takeover of oncolytic virus specialist ViraTherapeutics at the end of 2018, which is focused on the latter’s lead candidate VSV-GP, a cancer therapy that works by infecting tumours with a virus that both destroys malignant cells directly and mobilises an immune response against them.
In September 2019, the German drugmaker also made a $720m play for a MEK inhibitor from India’s Lupin that it is looking to pair with its stable of KRAS inhibitors.
Mutations in the KRAS pathway are involved in approximately a third of all cancers, but despite over three decades of R&D efforts, researchers have not yet been successful in bringing an effective KRAS-targeting drug to market.
The Lupin deal came only a few short weeks after Boehringer partnered with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to develop new cancer therapies.
Despite not having an overly dominant presence in immuno-oncology, these deals reflect Boehringer’s aim to secure a more significant position in the area.