Boehringer Ingelheim and Enara Bio have announced that they have entered into a strategic collaboration and licensing agreement to research and develop novel targeted cancer immunotherapies, leveraging Enara Bio’s Dark Antigen™ discovery platform.
This new collaboration combines Boehringer Ingelheim’s approach to tackling cancer through pairing leading science with innovative immune-oncology platforms, such as oncolytic viruses and cancer vaccines, with Enara Bio’s expertise in cancer antigen identification. The aim is to provide potential new therapies for patients with difficult to treat lung and gastrointestinal cancers.
Jonathon Sedgwick, PhD, Senior Vice President and Global Head, Cancer Immunology & Immune Modulation Research, Boehringer Ingelheim said: “We are excited to partner with Enara Bio as part of our mission to bring transformative new treatments to cancer patients.
He added: “We are advancing a unique pipeline of cancer cell-directed agents, immuno-oncology therapies and intelligent combination approaches to help combat cancer. Enara Bio’s unique discovery platform offers a novel and highly differentiated approach that will allow us to look beyond the known proteome to identify and characterize Dark Antigens to support the development of T-Cell Receptor (TCR)-directed immunotherapies and therapeutic vaccines. We believe this is a highly innovative and promising approach to the development of the next wave of cancer immunotherapies.”
Enara Bio’s proprietary Dark Antigen Platform Technology (EDAPT™) will be used to discover and validate novel Dark Antigens in up to three tumour types in the lung and gastrointestinal cancer space. The discovery of shared antigens could lead to the development of vaccines that can be readily utilized to help a broader group of cancer patients.
Dark Antigens represent a new class of cancer-associated antigens that derive from the genomic dark matter or the portion of the human genome that is normally not expressed as protein. Dark Antigen-encoding sequences are usually silenced in healthy cells but are activated and presented on tumour cells. They are associated with specific cancer types and, importantly, are shared across patients. Since typically not visible to the immune system, they represent a large potential repertoire of novel antigens that can be developed as targets for new immunotherapies.
Kevin Pojasek, President and CEO of Enara Bio said: “We are extremely pleased to enter this strategic licensing agreement, our first major deal leveraging our pioneering Dark Antigen discovery and validation capabilities,”
He added: “Boehringer Ingelheim is an innovation-led company dedicated to producing breakthrough treatments with a significant focus on cancer. We are excited to build this relationship and are encouraged that Boehringer Ingelheim shares our view of the potential of Dark Antigens to be a source of important and unconventional targets for novel cancer immunotherapies. This agreement provides strong validation for our science and our approach to exploiting the cancer-associated antigenic repertoire derived from genomic dark matter and we look forward to a productive collaboration.”
This collaboration with Enara Bio is the latest of several strategic partnerships and acquisitions for Boehringer Ingelheim to build its cancer vaccine platform and provides important validation for Enara Bio’s Dark Antigen platform. The past acquisitions of ViraTherapeutics and AMAL Therapeutics’ vaccine modalities coupled with Enara Bio’s capabilities position Boehringer Ingelheim to develop sophisticated virus and vaccine modalities for its prime/boost vaccine platform.
Under the agreement, Boehringer Ingelheim has the option to license Dark Antigens discovered and validated by Enara Bio. Boehringer Ingelheim will also be responsible for all non-clinical and clinical development, as well as commercialization of associated cancer immunotherapies, including therapeutic vaccines and T-cell redirecting biologics. Enara Bio retains rights to use any discovered antigens for use in cell therapy-based products.
Enara Bio is eligible to receive an upfront payment, together with research/preclinical milestones and licensing fees for each tumour type that is explored. Enara Bio is also eligible to receive more than EUR 876 million in clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones, in addition to royalties on future product sales.
Boehringer Ingelheim is a world-leading, research-driven pharmaceutical company with more than 51,000 employees creating value through innovation in three business areas: Human Pharma, Animal Health, and Biopharmaceutical Contract Manufacturing. Boehringer Ingelheim has been independent and family-owned since its founding in 1885.
Enara Bio (formerly Ervaxx) is a science-led company targeting the T-cell/cancer-cell interface (the “immune synapse”) to develop new targeted cancer immunotherapies designed to treat a broad patient population. Enara Bio is exploring the hidden depths of cancer and T-cell biology to discover and characterize novel immunotherapy targets, such as Dark Antigens™ and MR1-presented ligands.