Boehringer Ingelheim enlists another virtual biotech partner for its foray into retinal diseases
Boehringer Ingelheim is betting on retinal therapies in its latest deal and, in doing so, shining the spotlight on a little-known biotech that has some new ideas about the kinds of diseases one can treat by tamping down inflammasomes.
Inflammasome Therapeutics’ key contribution to the co-development and licensing pact — which its big German partner is reserving $160 million for — is a technology that delivers drugs through injecting a long-acting, biodegradable gel formulation into the eye. The compounds will come from Boehringer’s growing retinal disease pipeline portfolio.
So far the company has only painted its retinal programs in broad strokes, making it clear that it’s interested in everything from age-related macular degeneration to diabetic retinopathy to diabetic macular edema with lead programs in Phase II. These are blockbuster indications that have earned considerable revenue for Regeneron (Eylea) and Novartis (Lucentis) while spurring new biotechs to come up with new approaches.
Why Inflammasome? Clive Wood, who leads discovery research at Boehringer Ingelheim, said they liked the novel intravitreal technology as well as the scientific team, led by co-founders Jayakrishna Ambati and Paul Ashton. Ambati is a professor at the University of Virginia while Ashton helped invent an eye implant for visual impairment and uveitis.
“This will enable us to develop a broad range of novel therapy options for the many patients with retinal diseases waiting urgently for better and new therapy options,” Wood said in a statement.
While Inflammasome is developing its own molecules — dubbed kamuvudines — for macular degeneration alongside Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and type 2 diabetes, they appear not to be part of the deal.
Boehringer has been traveling to different corners of the biotech world to get its hands on some cutting-edge, but relatively low cost, innovation. Just a few weeks ago, it struck a deal to create a virtual research center devoted to KRAS with investigators at MD Anderson.
That in turn followed three other deals, including handing over $50 million for BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics, buying out Geneva-based cancer vaccine developer AMAL Therapeutics for $358 million total and inking an $870 million NASH deal with Korea’s Yuhan.