Life Sciences Insight

Boehringer Ingelheim acquires Abexxa Biologics for precision cancer drug pipeline

Boehringer Ingelheim, trying to recoup from ditching a seven-year cancer pact with CureVac by forging new oncology deals, has acquired one such hopeful in Abexxa Biologics.

The relatively unknown small Texas biotech initially linked arms with Boehringer in 2016, when the pharma giant seeded Abexxa and provided shared lab space in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The size of that initial funding, like the terms of Tuesday’s deal, were kept under the hood. Boehringer’s venture fund typically dishes out no more than €3 million ($3.5 million) to each portfolio company in the early stages and €15 million ($17.6 million) total over the startup’s life.

Now, Abexxa joins Boehringer and will remain in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, nearby the biotech’s origin at the University of Texas at Arlington. The acquisition entails upfront, milestone and other payments.

Abexxa’s technology targets cancer-specific proteins located inside the cell, as opposed to proteins on the cell membrane, which broadens the number of potential cancer antigen targets, Boehringer said. The goal of the acquisition is to bring cancer immunotherapies to fruition.

The biotech has developed a T-cell receptor-like antibody to disrupt a specific immune checkpoint in oncology, and Abexxa is forming molecules that recruit immune cells targeting specific tumor peptides.

While Boehringer’s deal with Abexxa is still in the early stages, it could be a rebound for the German Big Pharma after walking away from a $600 million pact with CureVac earlier this summer. That deal, inked in 2014, had aimed to bring cancer mRNA vaccines to market.