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Boehringer bolts on another immuno-oncology company

Acquires ViraTherapeutics in a €210m takeover deal

BI

Boehringer Ingelheim’s shopping spree in immuno-oncology has continued with a €210m takeover of ViraTherapeutics, an oncolytic virus specialist it has been working with since 2016.

The privately-held German drugmaker must have been impressed with ViraTherapeutics’ 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.

The original terms of the collaboration gave Boehringer an option to buy the company after phase I trials had been completed, but it’s taken the leap while VSV-GP is still in preclinical development. The drugmaker says the viral therapy has shown promising results in combination with its other immuno-oncology programmes.

“Our approach is rooted in transforming ‘cold’ tumours – or immunologically inactive tumours that are not responsive to the checkpoint blockers – to ‘hot‘ tumours – those that are most susceptible to immune system attack,” said Michel Pairet, Boehringer’s head of R&D.

“We are committed to investing in early research with promise and where our expertise best complements the strengths of our partners.”

ViraTherapeutics is just one a of a series of investments Boehringer has made in immuno-oncology, coming after a €1.1bn deal to license a checkpoint inhibitor from French biotech OSE Immunotherapeutics and earlier alliances with Siamab, AbeXXa Biologics, CureVac and Philogen.

The company currently has clinical-phase projects ranging across checkpoint inhibitors, oncolytic viruses, cancer vaccines and T-cell engagers, with around half of its early-to-mid-stage pipeline emerging from collaborations.

“Using a dual approach for potential treatment options, specifically combining immuno-oncology approaches with tumour cell-directed treatments, is central to Boehringer Ingelheim’s cancer immunology research strategy,” said the company in a statement. “Oncolytic virus-based therapies are consistent with and complement that strategy.”

The first oncolytic virus therapy to reach western markets was Amgen’s Imlygic (talimogene laherparepvec or T-Vec) which was approved by the FDA for melanoma in 2015. The first commercial use of this type of therapy was in China, however, after Shanghai Sunway Biotech got a green light for its H101 therapy for head and neck cancer in 2006.

Other oncolytic virus candidates coming through the development pipelines from the likes of Viralytics, Oncolytics Biotech, AstraZeneca/Omnis and Genelux.

Article by
Phil Taylor

13th September 2018

From: Sales

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