2020-12-14| M&A

Boehringer Ingelheim’s Newest Acquisition Reinforces its Focus on Immuno-Oncology

by Daniel Ojeda
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On December 10th, Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) announced that it would acquire Swiss biotech NBE-Therapeutics for EUR 1.18 billion. With this acquisition, BI will add the latter’s proprietary immune-stimulatory antibody-drug conjugate (iADC) platform and its lead candidate, NBE-002, currently in Phase I clinical studies for triple-negative breast cancer and lung adenocarcinoma.

The German pharma has been focusing on building a strong portfolio of cancer cell-directed therapies, immune-oncology strategies, and combination approaches. Their portfolio currently includes, but it’s not limited to, 13 immuno-oncology compounds and 10 cancer cell-directed compounds. Over the last two years, they have made several key acquisitions comprising immune-oncology products, technologies, and production companies. Back in May 2020, they acquired Northern Biologics Inc. and their antibody inhibitor of Periostin, which aims to increase immune surveillance in solid tumors. Additionally, in 2019, BI acquired AMAL Therapeutics for their cancer vaccine platform and ICD Therapeutics for their novel delivery method for engineered protein and peptide-based therapeutics.

This latest acquisition will allow them to develop a type of drug class known as antibody-drug conjugates (ADC). This type of approach consists of an antibody that binds, and it’s internalized by cancer cells. Linked to the antibody is a cytotoxic drug, which normally has unacceptable levels of toxicity. However, by ensuring the drug only targets cancer cells, the toxicity is reduced. Companies like Pfizer, Takeda, and Roche have successfully developed ADCs that are now FDA approved to treat a wide range of cancers.


NBE-Therapeutics’ iADC platform

NBE-Therapeutics is a privately held, clinical-stage biotechnology company that specializes in developing antibody-drug conjugates. NBE-002 is an anti-ROR1 antibody that binds to the ROR1 receptor, which is expressed in a variety of solid tumors.

“NBE-Therapeutics’ iADC platform adds exceptional tumor-targeting capabilities to our oncology portfolio. Together with our immune cell-targeting assets, this could enable new powerful combinations that will allow for efficacious and durable treatments for patients,” said Michel Pairet, member of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Board of Managing Directors with responsibility for the company’s Innovation Unit. “This acquisition is a further example of Boehringer Ingelheim’s long-term strategy to enhance our position as an innovator of novel cancer therapies for patients in need. We welcome NBE-Therapeutics’ richly talented team to Boehringer Ingelheim, and we look forward to collaborating with them on this important work.”

As per the agreement, BI will pay 1.18 billion euros for all of the shares of NBE-therapeutics. The deal also includes milestone payments contingent on clinical and regulatory milestones. BI will gain the entire portfolio of drugs from NBE, its proprietary technology that includes Transpo-mAb Display for antibody discovery, its SMAC-Technology for site-specific payload conjugation of toxins to antibodies, and immune-stimulatory anthracycline-based toxin platform. NBE-therapeutics will remain on its campus and become a new site of BI.

“I am extremely proud of the NBE-Therapeutics’ team and delighted that our world-class ADC expertise is being recognized by Boehringer Ingelheim. This transaction is a validation of our platform and its potential for the next-generation cancer therapies,” said Bertrand Damour, Chief Executive Officer of NBE-Therapeutics. “We look forward to progressing NBE-002, our lead program and best-in-class anti-ROR1 ADC, and to continuing the fight against cancer alongside Boehringer Ingelheim with its strong clinical development capabilities.”

By Daniel Ojeda, Ph.D.

Related Article: AstraZeneca to Acquire Alexion for US$ 39 Billion to Grow Immunology Pipeline



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