GERMANY — In a strategic move to strengthen its cancer pipeline, Boehringer Ingelheim, a leading pharmaceutical company based in Germany, has acquired T3 Pharma, a Swiss biotech spinout from the University of Basel.

The acquisition, valued at CHF 450 million (US$510 million), underscores Boehringer’s commitment to advancing innovative cancer therapies.

T3 Pharma specializes in developing a revolutionary platform that utilizes live bacteria to deliver therapeutic, immune-modulating proteins directly to tumors.

The bacteria, genetically engineered to colonize solid tumors, employ a ‘nano-syringe’ mechanism based on the bacterial type 3 secretion system.

This system allows the bacteria to bind to cells, delivering a bioactive payload into the tumor. The delivered proteins can inhibit cancer growth either directly or indirectly by stimulating the immune system.

The unique approach is designed to take advantage of the immunocompromised tumor microenvironment, allowing the genetically modified bacteria to flourish and exert their effects without causing off-target toxicity in healthy tissues.

T3 Pharma has progressed one therapeutic, T3P-Y058-739, based on this technology into clinical trials.

This genetically modified bacterium is engineered to prevent pathogenicity and micro-injects human cells with immunomodulatory proteins, stimulating the production of type 1 interferons.

T3P-Y058-739 is currently in a phase 1 study, investigating intratumoral injections initially twice a week for four weeks, with a second stage testing injections every two weeks over a six-month follow-up period.

Boehringer Ingelheim sees the acquisition of T3 Pharma as a significant expansion of its immuno-oncology pipeline, aligning with its existing research and development programs.

Boehringer Ingelheim’s focus on long-term remission rates, currently achieved in only 15% to 20% of cancer patients, aligns with its vision for combining complementary immuno-oncology platforms.

“Despite the significant transformation of the cancer treatment landscape by immunotherapies, long-term remissions only occur in 15% to 20% of cancer patients,” said Boehringer Ingelheim.

Immuno-oncology is a focal point of Boehringer’s R&D strategy, encompassing various platforms such as T-Cell engagers (TcEs), oncolytic viruses, and cancer vaccines.

These platforms aim to transform ‘cold’ tumors, which are resistant to immune responses, into ‘hot’ tumors susceptible to immunological attacks.

Michel Pairet, Boehringer’s Head of Innovation, stated, “This will bring us closer to achieving our vision of driving a paradigm shift in cancer care treatments.”

The T3 Pharma acquisition follows a series of pipeline-boosting agreements for Boehringer, including the acquisitions of Abexxa Biologics and NBE-Therapeutics, a strategic alliance with Enara Bio, and an option to acquire Trutino Biosciences.

T3 Pharma, founded in 2015 as a spinout from the Biozentrum Life Sciences Institute of the University of Basel, has completed funding rounds in 2016 (undisclosed), 2019 (US$13.60 million), and 2020 (US$28.3 million) to support the development of its groundbreaking bacterial delivery platform.

Simon Ittig, CEO of T3 Pharma, expressed enthusiasm about the integration with Boehringer, stating, “Being integrated with our partners at Boehringer will enable us to realize the full potential of our platform to fight solid cancers.”

The acquisition signifies a collaborative effort to advance the frontiers of cancer treatment and underscores Boehringer Ingelheim’s commitment to driving innovation in healthcare.

Boehringer’s commitment to advancing cancer treatment was further demonstrated in March when the company invested US$10 million upfront in a deal with Covant Therapeutics, focusing on discovering covalent candidates against an emerging cancer target.

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