Boehringer joins MD Anderson's cadre of cancer collaborators with pancreatic partnership

Boehringer Ingelheim is the latest drugmaker to join forces with Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center for oncology R&D, tapping the institution's experts in hopes of finding new treatments for a particularly deadly form of pancreatic cancer.

Under the collaboration, Boehringer is pairing its drug development know-how with MD Anderson's understanding of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, or PDAC, a malignancy that is often hard to detect and resistant to standard-of-care treatments. The goal is to dig into PDAC's underlying biology to identify biomarkers of the disease, eventually using that information to spotlight druggable targets and develop potential new therapies, Boehringer said.

MD Anderson, building a hub for cancer research at its Houston headquarters, has been a popular partner for drug firms looking to innovate in oncology in recent years. In 2015 alone, the center has inked agreements with Merck ($MRK), AstraZeneca ($AZN), Astellas, CytomX ($CTMX) and the CAR-T-focused Cellectis ($CLLS).

The center has also dipped into entrepreneurialism on its own, this month joining forces with Arch Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures to launch Codiak BioSciences, a startup with $80 million in cash and plans to dive into intercellular communication to treat cancer. Last month, MD Anderson paired up with Theraclone to establish OncoResponse, a new company focused on immuno-oncology.

For Boehringer, the agreement fits in with the German drugmaker's vision for future R&D, relying more external partners than internal research. Earlier this month, the company said it planned to spend €11 billion on R&D over the next 5 years, which works out to 17% less per year than what it spent in 2014. But Boehringer has promised to get more from less, touting an expanded reliance on academic and biotech partners that the company believes will lead to more efficient innovation.

"This partnership is a perfect match because it combines MD Anderson's outstanding capabilities in preclinical concept validation and clinical testing with Boehringer Ingelheim's strength in developing innovative medicines in novel target spaces," Clive Wood, Boehringer's senior vice president of discovery, said in a statement.

- read the statement

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