Boehringer Ingelheim, Twist Bioscience team up for $710M-plus antibody discovery collab

DNA helix forming inside a test tube
Boehringer Ingelheim will look to Twist Bioscience’s vast libraries of billions of human antibody sequences to identify potential new antibody-based therapies for identified drug targets. (Getty Images)

Boehringer Ingelheim’s work to discover and develop innovative new therapeutics will now look to antibodies to attack and treat a wide range of diseases—but there’s a twist.

Twist Biosciences, that is, with whom the company has formed a long-term partnership for therapeutic antibody discovery.

Boehringer will look to Twist’s “Library of Libraries” of antibody sequences to single out potential treatments for drug targets already identified by the drugmaker. Though synthetic, the tens of billions of sequences in Twist’s libraries have been structured to mimic only those that naturally appear in the human body.

Each library has been created using Twist’s silicon-based platform, which can generate millions of strands of DNA at a time. Those strands are then stitched together into synthetic antibodies with the potential to bind to disease-related cells, training the immune system to attack those cells.

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The Big Pharma is planning to use Twist’s technology to identify therapeutic antibodies to treat “a broad range of disease areas,” Clive Wood, Ph.D., Boehringer’s senior corporate VP and global head of discovery research, said in a statement.

“This discovery collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim covering numerous targets truly illustrates the power of our antibody libraries. We have the ability to generate precise antibodies to a diverse range of targets, which together with Boehringer Ingelheim’s strength in drug development capabilities, could mean multiple new, more personalized treatments in the future for patients,” said Twist CEO Emily Leproust, Ph.D.

Under the terms of the deal, Boehringer will pay Twist an undisclosed amount up front for each entry in the antibody discovery program. It will also shell out up to $710 million as its collaboration with Twist achieves certain clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones.

“Boehringer Ingelheim believes Twist’s ability to generate potent, diverse therapeutic antibodies by mining its comprehensive libraries, combined with our extensive capabilities and experience in drug discovery and development, will enable us to deliver breakthrough opportunities to patients,” Wood said.

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Boehringer has been in a collaborative mood this year. The Twist team-up follows a handful of other strategic partnerships the German pharmaceutical giant has formed in disease surveillance, quantum computing and more since the beginning of the year, all with an eye on strengthening its R&D programs.

Most recently, it joined forces with Lifebit, which is developing natural language processing artificial intelligence to rapidly scan scientific publications and real-world health data from around the world to identify potential new disease outbreaks.

With Lifebit’s assistance, Boehringer will be able to begin developing drugs in the earliest stages of an outbreak, backed by data detailing not only the makeup of the disease in question but also the best plan of attack for Boehringer’s drug development teams to address the disease.