Boehringer Ingelheim Acquires Abexxa Biologics to Further Expand its Research Efforts in Cancer Immunology and Novel Immunotherapeutic Approaches
- Boehringer Ingelheim aims to develop novel cancer therapies by leveraging Abexxa’s unique technology and breakthrough antibody-based drugs.
- Abexxa’s focus is on the development of specific antibodies to intracellular antigens presented by the non-classical MHC Class I molecule, HLA-E (human leucocyte antigens), enabling the development of cancer immunotherapies potentially benefiting a broader range of patients and cancer types.
- The addition of Abexxa’s expertise complements Boehringer Ingelheim’s current approaches to the treatment of difficult-to-treat solid cancers and especially those resistant to available immunotherapies.
Ingelheim, Germany, and Arlington, Texas, USA – 21 September 2021 – Boehringer Ingelheim today announced the acquisition of Abexxa Biologics Inc., a biopharmaceutical company taking a new approach in the fields of immuno-oncology and oncology research to develop the next generation of precision medicines designed to revolutionize cancer treatments. The acquisition will allow Boehringer Ingelheim to access Abexxa’s expertise in targeting cancer-specific proteins that are located inside the cell, rather than those expressed on the cell membrane. This enlarges the pool of potential cancer antigen targets. In particular, Abexxa’s technology could lead to the development of cancer immunotherapies that are effective in a broader range of patients and cancer types.
“The acquisition of Abexxa bolsters our commitment to tumor-antigen discovery and new ways of targeting intracellular antigens. Their cutting-edge know-how and technologies for antigen discovery and novel antibody generation strongly complement the current approaches we have been applying successfully to enable immune-targeting of cancer cells,” said Clive R. Wood, Ph.D., corporate senior vice president and global head of discovery research, Boehringer Ingelheim. “By expanding our portfolio of antibodies binding novel intracellular tumor antigens, we are striving to develop unique and broadly applicable new immunotherapeutic approaches for cancer patients,” added Wood.
Abexxa’s innovative platform unlocks the ability to target intracellular antigens of cancer cells by recognizing their presentation on the cell surface by MHC class 1 molecules. While the Abexxa platform addresses the more common HLA-A2 peptide presentation, the company has developed specific expertise in the nonclassical MHC class 1 molecule HLA-E, which has the potential to impact a broader set of cancer patients’ antigens. More specifically, Abexxa has developed a first-in-class T-cell receptor (TCR)-like antibody that can be used to disrupt the NKG2A:HLA-E immune checkpoint axis in oncology. Abexxa molecules are also being formulated to recruit immune cells targeting HLA-E peptide complexes on tumors.
In 2016, Boehringer Ingelheim’s Venture Fund, the arm of the company that invests in ground-breaking therapeutic and digital health approaches, awarded Abexxa initial investment funding. Later that year, Abexxa won Boehringer Ingelheim’s Innovation Prize, which facilitates business growth and rewards new companies for their dedication to innovation. The prize allowed Abexxa to expand operations into a shared lab space in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to continue its research. Boehringer Ingelheim’s investment in Abexxa demonstrates how the company is seeking to foster innovation across leading biotech communities, including the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area.
“The investment by Boehringer Ingelheim’s Venture Fund in 2016 was a defining moment for Abexxa,” said Debra Wawro Weidanz, co-founder and CEO of Abexxa. “The acquisition by Boehringer Ingelheim allows our team to access the company’s expertise and capabilities in immuno-oncology and antibody development and to have the opportunity to translate Abexxa technology into a clinical asset,” said Jon Weidanz, Ph.D., co-founder and CSO of Abexxa.
This transaction is the latest in a series of strategic acquisitions and collaborations that reinforce Boehringer Ingelheim’s overall oncology strategy, bringing together cancer immunology and cancer cell directed therapies to fight cancer. This strategy has further strengthened Boehringer Ingelheim’s position in oncology through the development of leading assets and robust capabilities in cancer vaccines, oncolytic viruses, T-cell engagers, antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) and myeloid and stromal cell modulators. By combining its world-class in-house research and development with that of highly innovative biotechnology companies like Abexxa, Boehringer Ingelheim is developing innovative cancer immunology therapies and accelerating the delivery of the next generation of cancer treatments.
Learn more about Boehringer Ingelheim’s innovation in oncology here.
The total transaction includes an upfront payment, milestones and other consideration payments. Abexxa will continue to operate in the Arlington, Texas, area as a Boehringer Ingelheim family company, collaborating extensively with the colleagues at Boehringer Ingelheim’s U.S. research site in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
About Boehringer Ingelheim
Boehringer Ingelheim is working on breakthrough therapies that improve the lives of humans and animals. As a leading research-driven biopharmaceutical company, the company creates value through innovation in areas of high unmet medical need. Founded in 1885 and family-owned ever since, Boehringer Ingelheim takes a long-term perspective. Around 52,000 employees serve more than 130 markets in the three business areas: Human Pharma, Animal Health and Biopharmaceutical Contract Manufacturing. Learn more at www.boehringer-ingelheim.com.
Boehringer Ingelheim in Oncology
Cancer takes. Takes away time. Takes away loved ones. At Boehringer Ingelheim Oncology, we are giving patients new hope by taking cancer on. We are dedicated to collaborating with the oncology community on a shared journey to deliver leading science. Our primary focus is on lung and gastrointestinal cancers with the goal of delivering breakthrough, first-in-class treatments that can help win the fight against cancer. Our commitment to innovation has resulted in pioneering treatments for lung cancer and we are advancing a unique pipeline of cancer cell directed agents, immuno-oncology therapies and intelligent combination approaches to help combat many cancers.
Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund
Created in 2010, the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) invests in ground-breaking therapeutics-focused biotechnology companies to drive innovation in biomedical research. BIVF is searching for significant enhancements in patient care through pioneering science and its clinical translation by building long-term relationships with scientists and entrepreneurs. BIVF’s focus is to target unprecedented therapeutic concepts addressing high medical needs in immuno-oncology, regenerative medicine, infectious diseases and digital health. These may include novel platform technologies to address so far undruggable targets, new generation vaccines and/or new biological entities.
BIVF takes an active role with its portfolio companies – delivering significant added value through its own extensive drug discovery, scientific and managerial expertise. BIVF has a fund volume of 300 million euros and currently supervises a portfolio of more than 35 companies. For more information, please visit www.boehringer-ingelheim-venture.com.
About Abexxa Biologics Inc. – Abexxa is a preclinical stage company located in Arlington, Texas, focused on developing novel therapeutics around classical and nonclassical peptide/HLA molecules, including peptide/HLA-E. Some of these targets have been shown to play a regulatory role in modulating innate and adaptive immune responses by releasing the inhibitory effects on natural killer cells and T-cells. Abexxa has developed a robust method to create highly specific human antibodies to those targets. These are being developed for various therapeutic drug formats, including direct tumor killing and mediating tumor death through immune modulation.
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