Boehringer buys up cancer vaccine player, eyes oncology combo strategy

Boehringer
The Amal Therapeutics purchase comes amid a small flurry of deals that sees Boehringer Ingelheim delve deeper into immuno-oncology therapies. (Boehringer Ingelheim)

German pharma Boehringer Ingelheim is putting a few hundred million euros on the table to snap up Swiss cancer biotech Amal Therapeutics.

BI gets access to Amal’s so-called KISIMA platform, which uses peptide/protein-based vaccination tech aimed at treating lung and gastrointestinal cancers.

The private biotech’s lead vaccine ATP128 is currently developed for late-stage colorectal cancer and is slated to begin first-in-human trials later this month.

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Boehringer explained in a statement that it “plans to develop new therapies by combining assets from its cancer immunology portfolio with Amal’s proprietary KISIMA immunization platform.”

Details are a little thin, with no upfront amount made public, but all in all the buyout could cost BI €325 million, including an upfront payment as well as biobucks payouts, plus up to €100 million “if certain commercial milestones are hit,” the company added.

Amal will maintain its home on the campus of the University of Geneva in Switzerland, working as a subsidiary within Boehringer. The pair already has deep ties, and last November the German cancer company helped power Amal to a €21.2 million ($24 million) series B round.

Amal spun out of the University of Geneva in 2012 to advance technology with the potential to address limitations that held back earlier generations of cancer vaccines. The tech is based on a chimeric protein made up of three functional parts, including a cell-penetrating peptide the biotech thinks will promote the efficient cross presentation of epitopes to cytotoxic T cells.

RELATED: Boehringer buys oncolytic virus startup ViraTherapeutics

“Acquiring Amal is part of Boehringer Ingelheim’s long-term strategy to enhance our existing position as an innovator of novel cancer therapies, including immuno-oncology treatments, which leverage cutting-edge scientific discoveries and their applications,” said Michel Pairet, a member of Boehringer’s board.

“We want to pioneer new paradigms of biology-based care for cancer patients, and the technologies and expertise developed at Amal are critical to our efforts.”

 “I am extremely proud of the hard work of Amal's entire team, which is validated by this acquisition, and very excited to further develop the KISIMA technology platform within Boehringer Ingelheim,” said Madiha Derouazi, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Amal.

“Our new relationship with Boehringer Ingelheim will enable us to realize the full potential of our KISIMA platform to fight solid cancers while preserving Amal’s approach to biotechnology research and our scientific and academic networks. Moreover, sharing resources and capabilities in clinical development will greatly help us to move ATP128 and other assets forward.”

This builds on BI’s 2018 buyout of Vira Therapeutics and the in-licensing of OSE Immunotherapeutics’ SIRP-alpha targeting antibody as the company looks to expand beyond its approved lung cancer therapy afatinib and into immuno-oncology.

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