Boehringer builds out NASH pipeline with up to $870M deal with South Korea's Yuhan
Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim is expanding its ambitions in NASH, the untreated fatty liver disease that has ravaged the developed world, creating a lucrative target that has sparked a flurry of drug development from biopharma firms big and small.
The company in 2017 joined forces with Dicerna in a research and licensing deal to develop RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics for chronic liver diseases, including NASH. On Monday, Boehringer tied up with South Korea’s Yuhan Corp to fight NASH in a deal worth up to $870 million — upfront and near term payments of $40 million as well as potential milestones payments of $830 million.
The drug the two will collaborate on is a dual agonist: the gut-derived hormone GLP-1 with a hormone secreted by the liver FGF21. NASH is characterized by a buildup of excess fat in the liver that induces chronic inflammation and eventually culminates in scarring that can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, cancer and death. The disease, which is typically associated with obesity and diabetes, is set to eclipse hepatitis C as the leading reason for liver transplants by 2020.
Preclinical evidence using GLP1R/FGF21R agonist suggests high efficacy — the drug is expected to reduce liver cell injury and hepatic inflammation by reducing fat accumulation in the liver as well as having direct antifibrotic effects, Boehringer said.
“This molecule, which is a fusion protein utilizing the long-acting (HyFc) technology of Genexine, has been developed in-house by Yuhan Corporation. Not only is our collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim on this molecule Yuhan’s first external partnership with biologics, it is also the very first out-licensing of biologics targeting NASH from Korea,” noted Yuhan chief Jung Hee Lee in a statement.
Boehringer has an existing arsenal of marketed drugs for cardiometabolic disease, including products for thromboembolic disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Yuhan has long served as a commercial partner for selected Boehringer cardiovascular and metabolic products in Korea.
NASH is a crowded field — that has seen a raft of trial failures. But with a market worth billions of dollars, the chase continues.
Social image: Andreas Arnold, AP Images