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Boehringer extends cancer dealmaking with right to buy biotech partner

Dive Brief:

  • German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim is deepening ties with a biotech partner, announcing on Tuesday that it signed an option to acquire San Diego, California-based Trutino Biosciences.


  • The deal gives Boehringer an opportunity to purchase Trutino in the future, while providing the small startup with some financing in the near term. Trutino will remain independent until Boehringer decides to exercise its option.


  • Formed in 2018, Trutino is developing cytokine-based therapies for autoimmune diseases and cancers. Its research is currently in preclinical stages and in 2020 the company struck a research collaboration with Boehringer.


Dive Insight:

Boehringer is best known for its drugs for cardiometabolic diseases like diabetes and lung conditions like pulmonary fibrosis. Its top-seller is Jardiance, a diabetes medicine developed in partnership with Eli Lilly.

Like many of its pharma company peers, however, Boehringer is seeking to build a greater presence in oncology. Currently, Boehringer sells two drugs for lung cancer: Vargatef and Gilotrif. Experimental treatments in its research pipeline are all in Phase 1 clinical testing.

But the pharma company has been expanding its cancer drug portfolio through acquisitions of other companies working in the field. In the recent past, Boehringer has acquired ViraTherapeutics, AMAL Therapeutics and NBE-Therapeutics, as well as licensed an early-stage immunotherapy from OSE Immunotherapeutics.

The partnership and option to buy Trutino follows a similar pattern to what Boehringer has used before. Prior to acquiring ViraTherapeutics, Boehringer had entered a research collaboration with the Austrian biotech and secured the right to acquire it after Phase 1 clinical development ended.

“Our existing collaboration has made rapid and impressive progress in a short time frame, and we expect this field to have potential combination benefits with our existing immune-targeting assets,” said Clive Wood, Boehringer’s head of discovery research, in a statement.

Financial terms haven’t been disclosed, but Boehringer will pay an option fee and issue a convertible note which it says will “fully finance Trutino Biosciences through the next major development milestones.” The companies have also agreed to a fixed purchase price should Boehringer move ahead with an acquisition.