Boehringer In­gel­heim is think­ing in block­buster terms as it throws its hat in­to the ever-widen­ing CD47 ring

Boehringer In­gel­heim is jump­ing on­to the CD47 “don’t-eat-me” path­way.

Jonathon Sedg­wick

The Ger­man com­pa­ny is pay­ing $37 mil­lion in cash and near-term mile­stones to grab rights to one of the prime tar­gets in the in­ter­play be­tween CD47 and SIRP-al­pha. By tar­get­ing SIRP-al­pha and pre­vent­ing CD47 from bind­ing to it, in­ves­ti­ga­tors at Boehringer be­lieve that they can defuse a key im­muno­sup­pres­sant and al­low macrophages to go on a can­cer cell ram­page.

They’re al­so not at all alone. CD47 it­self has be­come a tar­get for a wide va­ri­ety of biotechs, in­clud­ing Forty Sev­en, which was spun out of the lab of Stan­ford’s Irv Weiss­man. When Sur­face On­col­o­gy re­cent­ly filed their S-1, they high­light­ed their own CD47 ef­forts and a slate of ri­vals that in­cludes:

Alexo Ther­a­peu­tics, Arch On­col­o­gy, Au­ri­gene, Blink Bio­med­ical, Cel­gene, Novim­mune, OSE Im­munother­a­peu­tics, Sor­ren­to, Syn­thon Hold­ing and Tril­li­um Ther­a­peu­tics.

Now they can add Boehringer.

Boehringer be­lieves it has a strong con­tender for the crown here with the late pre­clin­i­cal OSE-172, which they in-li­censed from France’s OSE Im­munother­a­peu­tics. In ad­di­tion to the up­front and first mile­stone of $18.5 mil­lion at the launch of a loom­ing Phase I tri­al, there’s a trea­sure trove of $1.35 bil­lion in de­vel­op­ment, reg­u­la­to­ry and com­mer­cial mile­stones.

“A key area of fo­cus is the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of drugs that tar­get myeloid cell im­mune reg­u­la­to­ry re­cep­tors of which SIRP-al­pha is a lead­ing ex­am­ple,” says Jonathon Sedg­wick, the glob­al head of can­cer im­munol­o­gy at Boehringer. And he be­lieves that Boehringer can eas­i­ly dis­tin­guish it­self from the CD47 pack.

“We feel this is the bet­ter way to go,” Sedg­wick tells me. As of now, he be­lieves that Boehringer has the on­ly SIRP-al­pha pro­gram head­ed to the clin­ic, with a chance of hit­ting an im­por­tant tar­get with much greater speci­fici­ty than the CD47 ap­proach.

“If you block CD47 then you’re al­so block­ing many oth­er path­ways,” he adds, which could com­pli­cate mat­ters. 

Boehringer has been build­ing its I/O pro­gram for sev­er­al years now, work­ing with an in-house PD-1 check­point that it plans to use for its com­bi­na­tion drug work in the field, cen­ter­ing on build­ing an im­mune re­sponse to cold tu­mors. The plan with this new drug is to start a slate of Phase I stud­ies in a range of tu­mor types and look for sig­nals on what should ad­vance to­ward piv­otal pro­grams.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for 'New Bio­haven' with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the “New Biohaven” post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Ying Huang, Legend CEO

Lentivi­ral vec­tor ramp-up: J&J and Leg­end to in­vest $500M in New Jer­sey man­u­fac­tur­ing to sup­port Carvyk­ti

In response to a question on manufacturing scale at Legend Biotech’s R&D day yesterday, the company’s top exec said its partnership with Johnson & Johnson will be doubling its investment in its New Jersey manufacturing center and will be investing a total of $500 million.

With an eye on their BCMA-directed CAR-T therapy Carvykti (cilta-cel), approved in February as a fifth-line treatment for multiple myeloma, Legend CEO Ying Huang said that the ramp-up in production and the decision to manufacture its own lentiviral vectors — currently in shortage worldwide — means they won’t have to deal with that shortage.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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