Boehringer signs $1.3B deal with RNA biotech Ochre Bio to team up against MASH

Boehringer Ingelheim is making yet another bet that RNA therapies hold the key to treating metabolic-associated steatohepatitis (MASH).

The German drugmaker is paying British biotech Ochre Bio $35 million in upfront and near-term research-based milestone payments to investigate “multiple targets” for chronic liver disease. Top of the list of indications will be MASH, previously known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Should any of the targets in the “multi-year” collaboration prove fruitful, Ochre is also in line for various clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones as well as tiered royalties, which add up to a deal value north of $1 billion.

Ochre’s remit is developing RNA therapies that enhance the liver’s regenerative capabilities in order to halt or reverse chronic liver diseases. It’s far from the first time Boehringer has played in this space—the pharma kicked off the year signing a $2 billion biobucks deal with Suzhou Ribo Life Science and Ribocure Pharmaceuticals to see whether their RNAi drug platform that targets disease-causing genes specifically in liver cells could complement Boehringer’s own MASH expertise.

Six years earlier, Boehringer penned back-to-back partnerships with Dicerna Pharmaceuticals and MiNA Therapeutics covering the use of siRNA and small activating RNA to treat MASH.

Boehringer put this morning’s deal with Oxford, U.K.-based Ochre in the context of its “commitment to improving the lives of people living with interconnected cardiovascular, renal and metabolic diseases, including MASH cirrhosis.”

“Our partnership with Ochre Bio is driven by a shared goal to accelerate the development of new treatments for chronic liver diseases including MASH cirrhosis,” Søren Tullin, Ph.D., global head of cardiometabolic diseases research at Boehringer, said in the release.

“Ochre Bio brings to the table unique and exciting capabilities in liver disease research,” Tullin added. “We believe their application of advanced genomics and machine learning coupled with human-centric translational models holds the potential to uncover novel regenerative pathways that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by chronic liver disease.”

Boehringer has already notched some success in the MASH space so far this year, with the company’s Zealand Pharma-partnered glucagon/GLP-1 agonist survodutide demonstrating improvements in disease activity and liver scarring in a phase 2 trial in February.