Boehringer Ingelheim acquires Abexxa Biologics

By Rachel Arthur contact

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Boehringer Ingelheim wants to develop novel cancer therapies by leveraging Abexxa’s unique technology and breakthrough antibody-based drugs.

Founded in 2016 in Arlington, Texas, Abexxa Biologics is preclinical-stage company creating the ‘next generation of precision medicines designed to revolutionize cancer treatments’. In particular, its tech targets cancer-specific proteins that are located inside the cell (rather than those expressed on the cell membrane) thus enlarging the pool of potential cancer antigen targets and potentially leading to the development of cancer immunotherapies for a broader range of patients and cancer types.

Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim has been strengthening its position in oncology through the development of assets and capabilities in cancer vaccines, oncolytic viruses, T-cell engagers, antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) and myeloid and stromal cell modulators. It is doing so by combining its own in-house R&D with that of innovative biotechs to ‘develop innovative cancer immunology therapies and accelerate the delivery of the next generation of cancer vaccines’.

Abexxa’s 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 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.

Moving forward, Abexxa will continue to operate from Arlington and collaborate with colleagues at Boehringer Ingelheim’s US research site in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The value of the acquisition has not been disclosed.

Clive R. Wood, Ph.D., corporate senior vice president and global head of discovery research, Boehringer Ingelheim, said:“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.

"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.”

Last year, Boehringer Ingelheim acquired Northern Biologics' preclinical cancer antibody pipeline, expanding its immuno-oncology portfolio. It also entered into a discovery stage collaboration with Trutino Biosciences, gaining its On-Demand-Cytokine platform to develop new cancer immunology compounds. 

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