Playing catch-up, Boehringer taps RetinAI for AI boost to eye disease R&D

Boehringer Ingelheim has tapped RetinAI to support its attempt to develop treatments for geographic atrophy (GA), striking a deal to apply artificial intelligence tools to its imaging data in a search for novel biomarkers and predictors of disease progression.

In recent years, Boehringer has made moves to crack the GA market, advancing a candidate into the clinic in 2019 and striking a deal with CDR-Life to work on preclinical antibody fragments the next year. But those efforts have stuttered, notably when an early-phase clinical trial was terminated last year after a look at the data persuaded the company that the benefit-risk balance may be unfavorable for patients.

Boehringer’s stumbles mean Apellis Pharmaceuticals, which won FDA approval for the first GA drug in February, and Iveric Bio, which could win approval later this year, have a shot at carving up the market free from competition from the Big Pharma. The German drugmaker isn’t giving up, though.

Friday, RetinAI, a developer of software for accelerating retinal disease R&D, disclosed a partnership with Boehringer in GA. RetinAI uses machine learning and computer vision to analyze data on the eyes, in this case the repository of imaging data that Boehringer has built up from clinical trials and real-world projects.  

“Our Discovery platform and novel AI tools in GA accelerate research and provide robust disease insights. We are confident that this collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim can pave the way to novel treatments that are better tailored to a patient’s disease to transform the lives of people living with retinal diseases,” Carlos Ciller, CEO of RetinAI, said in a statement. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. 

Boehringer needs a boost to put up a fight in the GA market. Apellis and Iveric look set to duke it out for the market initially, but multiple other companies including AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Roche have candidates in phase 2 and 3 clinical trials.