Boehringer buys Enleofen IL-11 platform to boost NASH pipeline

Boehringer Ingelheim has struck another deal to expand its pipeline of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) prospects. The latest deal sees Boehringer swallow Enleofen’s anti-IL-11 antibody platform, putting it on the hook for up to $1 billion in milestones per product. 

Singapore-based Enleofen began operations in 2017, starting out with an exclusive license to patents and antibodies from the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC). Enleofen built on those licensed resources, creating an anti-IL-11 antibody platform and hustling the most promising assets toward the clinic.

Now, Boehringer has stepped in to run the next stage of the program. The German drugmaker has bought exclusive rights to the IL-11 platform, setting it up to advance drugs against fibrotic disorders including NASH and interstitial lung diseases.

Boehringer will continue to work with AMC, the originator of the science, but will take responsibility for clinical, regulatory and commercial development of the licensed therapies. In return for rights to the IL-11 assets, Boehringer has put together a package that is worth up to $1 billion (€900 million) per product in upfront fees and milestones. The deal is likely to be heavily backloaded. 

Research into the role of IL-11 has led Boehringer to foresee applications for the antibodies in a wide range of diseases. Studies suggest blocking the action of the IL-11 cytokine can prevent and reverse fibrosis and inflammation across multiple organs. Reflecting its pipeline priorities, Boehringer will initially explore the antibodies in NASH and interstitial lung diseases.

Boehringer’s focus on the role of IL-11 in NASH and interstitial lung diseases, an umbrella term that covers indications including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is in keeping with its recent deal-making. Last year, Boehringer paid Yuhan $40 million and committed to up to $830 million in milestones for the rights to a dual GLP1R/FGF21R agonist with applications in NASH.

Further back, Boehringer has struck deals with companies including Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, MiNA Therapeutics and Pharmaxis to secure rights to potential NASH treatments. Not all the bets have paid off, though. Late last year, Boehringer dropped the drug it acquired from Pharmaxis amid concerns about drug interactions.