Boehringer double dips at 3T, inking second T-cell anticancer deal to swell potential payday to $538.5M

Boehringer Ingelheim’s business development team has scorched out of the traps in 2024. On Thursday, Jan. 4,  the German drugmaker unveiled its second deal of the year, revealing another T-cell anticancer therapy partnership with 3T Biosciences to swell the potential payday to $538.5 million.

One year ago, Boehringer struck a deal to feed its patient-derived T-cell receptor (TCR) data into 3T’s target discovery platform. Boehringer framed the collaboration and licensing agreement, which featured an upfront fee, of undisclosed size, and up to $268 million in milestones, as a way to expand its pipeline of first-in-class T-cell-based therapies and enable more cancer patients to benefit from immunotherapies. 

Having completed the initial research partnership, Boehringer has entered into a second agreement that will keep its work with 3T going. As in the original deal, Boehringer is providing TCR data to support 3T’s target discovery work and identify antigens, and paying an undisclosed upfront fee and committing to a package of milestones. The milestones for both agreements total $538.5 million.

Leaders at both companies talked up the progress made during the first year of the relationship. Lamine Mbow, Ph.D., global head of cancer immunology and immune modulation at Boehringer, said in a statement that “the initial success of our work with 3T gives us confidence that together we can and will expand and accelerate our pipeline of first-in-class T-cell based anti-cancer therapies.” 

For 3T CEO Stefan J. Scherer, M.D., Ph.D., the first year provided “a higher degree of validation of our 3T-TRACE discovery platform” and emboldened the team to “go broader and deeper into other cancers.” Last year, 3T appointed Bryan Irving, Ph.D., as chief scientific officer and Estelle Marrer-Berger, Ph.D., as chief development officer to advance its plans to enter the clinic in 2024.

Boehringer already has a well-stocked early-phase cancer pipeline. The company’s pipeline lists 10 phase 1 programs that reflect its belief that modalities such as T-cell engagers, oncolytic viruses and cancer vaccines will enable more people to benefit from immunotherapies that currently only achieve sustained remission in a fraction of cancer patients.

The German drugmaker has built its pipeline through deals, noting that half of the molecules across its research, preclinical and clinical portfolios are “anchored in external collaborations.” Work to add more externally sourced candidates is well underway already in 2024, with Boehringer disclosing the new 3T deal the day after unveiling a metabolic-associated steatohepatitis partnership.