Boehringer nabs Northern Biologics preclinical assets, pens eye disease drug pact

Boehringer Ingelheim is boosting its early-stage bets while also inking a new deal to work on a therapy against a leading cause of blindness.

First up is the German pharma’s preclinical deal with Northern Biologics, which sees it grab the biotech's early work on therapeutic antibodies targeting the tumor microenvironment, an emerging area in cancer immunology with a growing number of players.

It’s made up of two programs: The first program, nearing a clinical trial, is an antibody inhibitor of Periostin, a secreted matricellular protein overexpressed in the immunosuppressive stroma microenvironment of many solid tumor types.

Targeting these stromal cells can help turn previously "cold" tumors—nonreactive, immunologically inactive tumors—to "hot" tumors, those that are susceptible or accessible to host immune system attack.

The second program, meanwhile, targets a key regulator of myeloid cells that is important for enhancing anti-tumor T-cell function.

Northern LP, which owns Northern Biologics, will retain the name and will continue to “drive certain preclinical efforts on one of the programs, while Boehringer Ingelheim will be responsible for clinical, regulatory and commercial development of the acquired programs,” the pair said in a statement. There’s an upfront and biobucks, but Boehringer is keeping mum on the financial details.

On the same day, it signed another preclinical deal with biopharma CDR-Life, this time a collaboration and licensing pact that sees the pair work to develop antibody fragment-based therapeutics for geographic atrophy (GA), a progressive, irreversible retinal disease that occurs in patients with age-related macular degeneration for which there is no current treatment.

The two will work on CDR-Life’s preclinical candidate with the aim to “preserve sight for patients with GA.” CDR-Life can get up to CHF 474.5 million ($489 million) in upfront and biobucks, though the specifics on the upfront were not shared. Given how early the deal is, it’s likely much of the pact is backloaded.