Citing toxicity concerns, Boehringer Ingelheim drops short-lived IPF pact — keeping $1B+ in its pocket

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly killed a short-lived deal that it was prepared to spend $1.25 billion on, returning an early-stage drug to its Korean biotech partner.

When the German pharma paid Bridge Biotherapeutics $50 million last July, it hailed BBT-877 — an autotaxin inhibitor — as a potential next-generation treatment option for fibrosing interstitial lung diseases. But toxicity concerns have cropped up, triggering the decision to drop the program, according to Korea Biomedical Review.

Autotaxin, or ATX, has been an emerging target for IPF because of its role in generating lysophosphatidic acid, which in turn promotes inflammation and fibrosis. The pact was part of Boehringer’s global spree as its BD group looked left and right to beef up its pipeline on respiratory diseases as well as cancer.

Galapagos’ late-stage ATX player GLPG1690 figured prominently in its $5 billion alliance with Gilead. Mid-stage data reported in 2017 suggested it clearly stabilized a small group of patients with the disease.

Fast on the heels of a riotous reception for FibroGen’s PoC round for a rival IPF drug, the Belgian biotech says their drug clearly stabilized a small group of patients with the disease while patients in the placebo arm continued to decline.

After reviewing Phase I results suggesting dose-dependent increase of plasma concentrations of the drug, Boehringer took over to do its own clinical work. The data from those studies are going to Bridge.

Not to be confused with Neil Kumar’s genetics-focused shop in the Bay Area, Bridge Biotherapeutics bills itself as a virtual organization, headquartered in Seongnam with a subsidiary at Houston’s JLABS@TMC.

“Bridge Biotherapeutics is well aware of the difficulties facing IPF patients and the necessity of developing a new drug for the illness,” CEO Lee Jung-kue told KBR. “Therefore, the company plans to do its best for developing BBT-877.”

Next steps start with talking to the FDA about data in Q1 of next year.

The termination marks another spot on Boehringer’s adventures in Korea. Its alliance with Hanmi ended in disaster as their cancer drug was linked with several patient deaths and an insider trading scandal in Seoul.

Having ridden the Boehringer Ingelheim deal to a $36 million Korea listing in late 2019, Bridge Biotherapeutics has pocketed around $52 million in milestones over the past year.

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