Boehringer Ingelheim acquires Northern Biologics to expand cancer immunology portfolio

Boehringer Ingelheim today announced the acquisition of Northern Biologics Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Northern LP. By acquiring this entity, which focuses on therapeutic antibodies targeting the tumor microenvironment, Boehringer Ingelheim is now positioned at the forefront of the stromal biology space - an emerging area in cancer immunology. The seller will retain the Northern Biologics name and will continue to drive certain preclinical efforts on one of the programs, while Boehringer Ingelheim will be responsible for clinical, regulatory and commercial development of the acquired programs.

The total transaction includes an upfront payment, milestones and other consideration payments.

The first program, now in late preclinical development, is an antibody inhibitor of Periostin, a secreted matricellular protein overexpressed in the immunosuppressive stroma microenvironment of many solid tumor types. Targeting these stromal cells can help turn previously ‘cold’ tumors – non-reactive, immunologically inactive tumors – to ‘hot’ tumors – those that are susceptible or accessible to host immune system attack. The antibody program targeting Periostin has emerged as a promising therapy to overcome stromal mechanisms of immune exclusion and suppression.

The second program targets a key regulator of myeloid cells that is important for enhancing anti-tumor T-cell function. Targeting myeloid cells is a focus area of research and clinical development for Boehringer Ingelheim and the acquired program offers combination opportunities across Boehringer Ingelheim’s portfolio.

This acquisition provides Boehringer Ingelheim with two complementary assets to our existing cancer immunology portfolio and supports our strategy to target ‘cold’ tumors with synergistic combination approaches. Driving innovation in tumor stroma and myeloid cell biology is yet another example of how we are ‘Taking Cancer On’ by exploring first-in-class approaches to provide the best treatment options for cancer patients.”

Jonathon Sedgwick, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Global Head, Cancer Immunology & Immune Modulation Research, Boehringer Ingelheim

We are gratified by this transaction with Boehringer Ingelheim, which simultaneously accelerates these promising assets into the clinic. I am proud of the Northern R&D team, which discovered and advanced these compounds in the emerging field of tumor stroma and myeloid cell biology.”

Philip Vickers, Ph.D., President and CEO of Northern Biologics

Founding investor Versant Ventures established Northern Biologics in Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District in collaboration with the University of Toronto and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in 2014. The programs acquired by Boehringer Ingelheim were discovered and translated into clinical candidates by Northern’s Toronto-based research team. Northern Biologics retains rights to its lead asset, MSC-1, an anti-LIF 1 antibody that recently successfully completed Phase 1 clinical trials.

The Northern Biologics-Boehringer Ingelheim acquisition represents the second recent transaction for a Versant-built company operating out of the MaRS discovery district in Toronto. It follows the August 2019 acquisition of BlueRock Therapeutics, which also drew on technology locally developed by Canadian scientists.

This acquisition positions Boehringer Ingelheim as a leader in the field of stromal targeting biology and, along with a series of strategic acquisitions and collaborations over the past two years, further strengthens the company’s broad and diverse oncology pipeline. By combining its world-class, in-house research and development with that of highly innovative biotechnology companies, Boehringer Ingelheim is developing innovative cancer immunology therapies and accelerating the delivery of the next generation of cancer treatments.

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