Germany's nanoPET partners with Boehringer Ingelheim for imaging Dx deal

nanoPET CEO Andreas Briel

German diagnostic imaging outfit nanoPET Pharma is teaming up with Boehringer Ingelheim to develop diagnostic agents for preclinical drug development, building on a previous relationship between the two companies and opening the door for future collaboration.

As part of the agreement, Berlin-based nanoPET will create tailor-made contrast agents to help Boehringer identify suitable drug candidates earlier and potentially shorten the preclinical development phase, the company said in a statement. The contrast agents will provide high-resolution, in vivo monitoring in preclinical studies and could help facilitate regulatory approval for drugs under development.

Boehringer will handle research, development and marketing of therapeutic substances, while nanoPET Pharma will oversee the preclinical diagnostics side of the deal, Andreas Briel, CEO of nanoPET Pharma, said in a statement.

"We provide what any pharmaceutical development company needs during the preclinical phase: a clear and significant image which protects the living organism," Briel said. "Within this cooperation, nanoPET Pharma will also investigate, in the medium-term, opportunities for the implementation of imaging methods as companion diagnostics in human medicine."

The deal comes at a critical moment for Boehringer, as the company struggles to cut its losses and spur development of promising drugs. In May, the German drugmaker shelled out $650 million to settle 4,000 lawsuits alleging its blood thinner Pradaxa caused serious bleeding. In September, Boehringer announced that it would cut between 500 and 600 jobs in its home country weeks after the company posted a 3% drop in sales for the first 6 months of the year.

The company enjoyed a bright point in October when the FDA greenlighted Ofev, one of the first two U.S.-approved treatments for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Ofev is under assessment by the European Medicines Agency, and Boehringer plans to offer a copay assistance and patient support program to defray the costs of the $96,000 orphan drug.

Boehringer is not the only company forging ahead with companion diagnostic partnerships. In August, diagnostics giant Illumina ($ILMN) announced that it would team up with AstraZeneca ($AZN), Janssen Biotech and Sanofi ($SNY) to develop a universal gene-sequencing companion diagnostic test system that helps match patients to the best cancer drugs. If all goes according to plan, Illumina will produce assays that can identify and measure cancer variants that support its partners' clinical trials.

- read nanoPET's announcement (PDF)

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