Virtual R&D vs. cancer
September 2019
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author

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INGELHEIM, Germany & HOUSTON—Scientific collaboration between researchers in distantly separated countries is nothing new, and certainly the idea of virtual workspaces has become a lot more commonplace in the past decade-plus. But Boehringer Ingelheim and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center are going a slight step farther to make the virtual a real lifesaver, through the establishment of a joint Virtual Research and Development Center that is aimed at rapidly advancing new cancer therapies.
 
The establishment of this joint Virtual Research and Development Center is expected to enable more effective data-sharing and analysis between the organizations.
 
The partnership and virtual R&D center will conduct collaborative research for various types of cancer. but in particular it will combine new potential gastrointestinal and lung cancer therapies from Boehringer Ingelheim’s innovative oncology pipeline with the patient-driven drug-development capabilities at MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division. Initially, the new center will investigate KRAS pathway inhibitors and a TRAILR2 antibody from Boehringer Ingelheim’s cancer research, though the partnership’s flexible framework will allow for projects to enter at different stages (research, development and/or clinical stage) over several years.
 
MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division is a multidisciplinary team of clinicians and researchers focused on advancing the next generation of cancer therapies. As part of the division, the TRACTION (Translational Research to Advance Therapeutics and Innovation in Oncology) platform conducts cutting-edge translational research to better understand how new medicines work and which patients will see most benefit.
 
“We could not have chosen a better partner with all its research, translational and clinical expertise in lung and gastrointestinal cancers. Together, we hope to transform the treatment landscape for these diseases by tackling their root causes and drivers, that have so far remained elusive, exploring new and smart ways of killing cancer cells,” said Boehringer Ingelheim Global Head of Oncology, Medicine Dr. Victoria Zazulina, who is also a corporate vice president at the company. “Our innovative oncology pipeline coupled with strong partnerships like this will contribute to unravelling the complexities of these diseases and bringing innovative solutions to people with various types of cancers.”
 
Added Dr. Tim Heffernan, executive director of TRACTION at MD Anderson: “Within MD Anderson, we are committed to a singular goal of ending cancer. We look forward to working with Boehringer Ingelheim to advance their innovative pipeline of cancer medicines. Our Therapeutics Discovery team is well poised to conduct impactful translational research, and this partnership will allow us to more rapidly advance much-needed new therapies to patients.”
 
Given that lung cancer is one of the early focuses of the new partnership, it might be worth noting some other recent Boehringer Ingelheim news on the pulmonary front. The company reported in mid-July that it had entered into a new collaboration and license agreement with Seongnam, Korea-based Bridge Biotherapeutics Inc. with the goal of developing Bridge Biotherapeutics’ autotaxin inhibitor BBT-877 for patients with fibrosing interstitial lung diseases, including IPF. BBT-877 is currently in Phase 1 clinical studies and is anticipated to enter Phase 2 testing within the next year.
 
Both companies will initially focus on developing the compound for the treatment of IPF, an area of high-unmet medical need and one of the key focus areas of Boehringer Ingelheim. Boehringer Ingelheim has developed OFEV (nintedanib), an antifibrotic drug shown to slow disease progression by reducing lung function decline.
 
IPF is a rare, debilitating and fatal lung disease affecting approximately three million people worldwide. It causes progressive scarring of the lungs, resulting in continual and irreversible deterioration in lung function and breathing difficulties. BBT-877 inhibits autotaxin, an enzyme mediating a key pro-fibrotic event in multiple cell types. It has shown a promising safety and efficacy profile in pre-clinical models for fibrosing interstitial lung diseases and potential for combination with the current standard of care.
 
“This is a transformational event for Bridge Biotherapeutics with a total potential value in excess of €1.1 billion. It is a testament to the company’s excellence in the development of novel therapeutics for disease areas with high unmet medical need,” commented Dr. B. Chris Kim, a board member of Bridge Biotherapeutics based in Cambridge, Mass.
Code: E08141901

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