AbbVie cuts away part of its partnership with Morphic on integrin research for fibrosis
Despite a quiet few years, Morphic Therapeutic was once a buzzy biotech looking to move integrin research into the next generation. Now, a drug giant partner is quietly ditching part of its collaboration with the biotech.
AbbVie has decided to discontinue research into the αVβ6 integrin as part of a deal with Morphic dating back to 2018, the biotech said Thursday.
Snuck quietly into an earnings release, Morphic said AbbVie opted to walk on that part of the collaboration but didn’t offer any specific reason why. The company noted that research into other integrin targets is still ongoing despite the setback.
Way back in late 2018, AbbVie dumped $100 million upfront into an expansive R&D pact with Morphic centered around oral fibrosis drugs. The platform, developed in the lab of Harvard’s Tim Springer, looked to crack the code on integrins — a key receptor on animal cells used to bind to the extracellular domain and rapidly heal damage.
In 2020, the drug giant took the next step in that process, agreeing to in-license two integrin programs from Morphic for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and other fibrosis-related diseases. Morphic received a $20 million licensing fee with potential future milestone payments.
Alongside Thursday’s news, Morphic also said it “focused” research as part of a similar J&J collaboration, saying the partnership “is now primarily focused on discovering activators of a specific integrin target, including antibody activators.”
That R&D pact dates back to early 2019, when J&J bought in on Morphic’s concept with an undisclosed upfront payment and the potential for $725 million in downstream milestones. At the time, Morphic and CEO Praveen Tipirneni pitched the collaboration as a complement to his team’s work in pushing the integrin field forward.