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Boehringer buys into oncolytic viruses via €210m ViraTherapeutics deal

Option to acquire the Austrian biotech after phase I trials remains open to Boehringer 
Boehringer Ingelheim

Boehringer Ingelheim has boosted its position in immuno-oncology by licensing an oncolytic virus therapy developed by Austrian biotech ViraTherapeutics.

The deal - valued at up to €210m ($236m) - gives Boehringer joint development rights to vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein (VSV-GP), a platform technology for the creation of oncolytic viruses which treat cancer by infecting and killing malignant cells.

The approach is based on the ability of certain viruses to enter cancer cells and selectively replicate there. In addition to directly attacking the cells, the immune response to the viruses becomes an important component of the antitumor effect.

The deal also gives Boehringer an option to acquire ViraTherapeutics outright once phase I clinical trials of the lead candidate have been concluded. The German company is already a shareholder in the company through its Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) investment arm.

This form of immuno-oncology has been spearheaded by Amgen, whose Imlygic (talimogene laherparepvec or T-Vec) was approved by the FDA last year, although it was not the first oncolytic virus to reach the market. That accolade belongs to H101, a modified adenovirus launched as a treatment for head and neck cancer by Shanghai Sunway Biotech in 2006.

For now these are the only two therapies of this type on the market, although there is a host of candidates coming through the development pipelines from the likes of Viralytics, Oncolytics Biotech, AstraZeneca/Omnis and Genelux.

Boehringer says VSV-GP has a shorter replication time than other oncolytic virus platforms currently under development. Furthermore, it does not integrate in the DNA - which raises the risk of further genetic mutations - and has been modified to avoid neural inflammation that is seen with wild type viruses.

In preclinical models VSV-GP did not induce virus neutralising antibodies, which suggests it could be given repeatedly without losing efficacy.

This is the second immuno-oncology deal signed by Boehringer this month. It recently sold rights to one of its immuno-oncology candidates - a B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) targeting drug called BI 836909 for multiple myeloma - to US biotech Amgen.

Article by
Phil Taylor

29th September 2016

From: Research, Sales

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