Looking for Ofev follow-up, Boehringer picks up Bridge Biotherapeutics' IPF med for $50M

Seongnam, South Korea-based Bridge Biotherapeutics is developing the compound, BBT-877, for fibrosing interstitial lung diseases, in which scarring affects a group of support tissues in the lungs. (Tama66/Pixabay)

Nearly five years after lung-scarring med Ofev got the FDA nod, its maker wants to get cracking on a  successor. Boehringer Ingelheim is licensing an autotaxin inhibitor from Bridge Biotherapeutics for €45 million ($50 million) upfront. 

Seongnam, South Korea-based Bridge Biotherapeutics is developing the compound, BBT-877, for fibrosing interstitial lung diseases, in which scarring affects a group of support tissues in the lungs. It’s currently in phase 1 studies and slated to enter phase 2 in the next year. 

Under the deal, Boehringer and BridgeBio will develop BBT-877 for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a rare and fatal disease in which progressive scarring in the lungs makes breathing difficult and prevents the lungs from delivering enough oxygen to the rest of the body. Some patients may receive a lung transplant, but others are too frail for the procedure. Other treatments, such as supplemental oxygen and pulmonary rehabilitation, focus on managing symptoms. 

There are only two FDA-approved IPF drugs—Boehringer's Ofev and Genentech’s Esbriet. Both work by delaying disease progression, but they do not cure it. 

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BBT-877 blocks autotaxin, an enzyme that plays a role in promoting scarring in multiple cell types. It has shown promise in preclinical models of fibrosing interstitial lung diseases—in which scarring affects a group of support tissues in the lungs—and could potentially be combined with other treatments. 

“We look forward to working with the team at Bridge Biotherapeutics to develop a new treatment option for patients with IPF. This new collaboration complements our growing pipeline in fibrosing interstitial lung diseases and is a sign of our determination to bring the next generation of treatment options to these patients,” said Michel Pairet, who sits on Boehringer’s board of managing directors with responsibility for the company’s Innovation Unit, in a statement. 

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In addition to €45 million in upfront and near-term payments, Bridge Biotherapeutics could end up netting more than €1.1 billion in total if it meets all of its milestones. 

This isn’t Boehringer’s first IPF deal post-Ofev. In 2016, it inked an R&D pact with France’s Inventiva Pharma under which it paid €170 million ($190 million) in return for a chance to tap into transcriptional regulation and fibrosis tools and know-how Inventiva originally picked up in a deal with Abbott. A year later, Boehringer pulled the trigger on an option to jointly discover new drugs against a new, validated IPF target.