Boehringer builds out cancer capabilities with $500M deal for bacteria-focused Swiss biotech

Boehringer Ingelheim has acquired bacterial cancer therapy company T3 Pharmaceuticals in a deal that could be worth up to 450 million Swiss francs ($508 million).

The addition of Allschwil, Switzerland-based T3 will “significantly expand” the German drugmaker’s immuno-oncology pipeline and aligns with some of the company’s existing R&D programs, Michel Pairet, a member of the board of managing directors at Boehringer Ingelheim, said in a Nov. 22 release. 

Boehringer has a history with the Swiss biotech, including co-leading a $27 million funding round in 2020 to support the launch of clinical-stage activities. T3’s lead product, dubbed T3P-Y058-739, is currently being studied in a phase 1 trial for patients with advanced solid tumors.

T3P-Y058-739 was developed using T3’s protein delivery platform that repurposes the bacterial type III secretion (T3S) system so that live bacteria can be harnessed to deliver immune-modulating proteins to cancer cells and tumor micro-environments while avoiding healthy tissue. The bacteria can carry several immune-modulatory proteins, allowing for immuno-oncology combination therapies to be delivered in a single agent. 

The cancer platform fits into Boehringer’s vision for boosting long-term remission rates among individuals with cancer, which currently only occur in 15% to 20% of patients, according to the Big Pharma. The company hopes to achieve its goal by combining complementary immuno-oncology platforms—such as T-cell engagers, oncolytic viruses and cancer vaccines—to expand the benefits of immunotherapy to more patients.

Back in March, the German company put down $10 million upfront in a deal with Covant Therapeutics to discover covalent candidates against an emerging cancer target.

Under Boehringer’s wing, T3—a 2015 spin-off from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel—will keep operating in Switzerland. While the companies said the acquisition could be worth up to $508 million, no other financial details were disclosed.