Boehringer Ingelheim acquires oncolytic virus company ViraTherapeutics

German pharma company Boehringer Ingelheim has exercised its option to acquire 100% of Austria-based oncolytic virus company ViraTherapeutics for €210 million in a move to develop next generation viral-based immuno-oncology therapies.

In September 2016, Boehringer Ingelheim and ViraTherapeutics entered into a long term collaboration to develop the oncolytic virus therapy platform and also to investigate VSV-GP (Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) glycoprotein (GP)), the lead candidate of the Austrian biopharma company, as monotherapy and in combination with other therapies.

Boehringer Ingelheim says that VSV-GP has yielded promising results in pre-clinical models, particularly in combination with the key immune modulatory principles developed by it.

ViraTherapeutics was originally a portfolio company of EMBL Ventures and the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF).

Boehringer Ingelheim acquires ViraTherapeutics, an Austrian oncolytic virus company.
Boehringer Ingelheim acquires ViraTherapeutics, an Austrian oncolytic virus company. Photo courtesy of Madras150/Commons.wikimedia.org

Commenting on Boehringer Ingelheim acquisition of ViraTherapeutics, Dr. Heinz Schwer, CEO of ViraTherapeutics, said: “The acquisition of ViraTherapeutics with its exciting oncolytic virus platform is the conclusion of a trusting and close cooperation over two years.

“We are highly optimistic that our VSV-based development programs and technology will complement Boehringer Ingelheim’s immuno-oncology franchise and will serve as a source of innovative, new treatment options for patients living with cancer.”

Boehringer Ingelheim says that using a dual approach for potential treatment options, particularly by combining immuno-oncology approaches with tumor cell-directed treatments, is central to its cancer immunology research strategy. The German pharma company further said that oncolytic virus-based therapies are consistent with and complement the strategy.

Dr. Michel Pairet, member of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Board of Managing Directors, commenting on Boehringer Ingelheim acquisition of ViraTherapeutics, said: “Our approach is rooted in transforming ‘cold’ tumors – or immunologically inactive tumors that are not responsive to the checkpoint blockers – to ‘hot‘ tumors – those that are most susceptible to immune system attack.

“We are committed to investing in early research with promise and where our expertise best complements the strengths of our partners. Together, we aim to discover breakthrough medical treatments to transform the lives of patients and win the fight against cancer.”

Earlier this week, Boehringer Ingelheim announced that its AbbVie psoriasis drug Humira biosimilar – Cyltezo achieved clinical equivalence to the reference product in a late-stage 3 trial in patients with moderate-to-severe chronic plaque psoriasis.

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