Boehringer Ingelheim announced on September 21 the acquisition of Abexxa organic products Inc., an Arlington-based biopharmaceutical company taking a new approach in immuno-oncology and oncology research to develop the next generation of precision drugs for cancer treatments. No transaction price has been disclosed.
The acquisition will allow Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, based in Ingelheim, Germany, to access Abexxa’s expertise in targeting cancer-specific proteins located within cell, rather than those expressed on the cell membrane. This expands the pool of potential cancer antigen targets. In particular, Abexxa’s technology could lead to the development of effective cancer immunotherapies in a wider range of patients and cancer types.
“The acquisition of Abexxa strengthens our commitment to the discovery of tumor antigens and new ways to target intracellular antigens. Their know-how and cutting-edge technologies for antigen discovery and new antibody generation strongly complement current approaches that we are successfully applying to enable immune targeting of cancer cells, ”said Clive R. Wood, Ph. D., senior vice president of the company. President and Global Director of Discovery Research, Boehringer Ingelheim. “By expanding our portfolio of antibodies binding novel intracellular tumor antigens, we strive to develop new, unique and widely applicable immunotherapeutic approaches for cancer patients,” added Wood.
The Abexxa platform unlocks the ability to target intracellular antigens of cancer cells by recognizing their presentation on the cell surface by MHC class 1 molecules. While the Abexxa platform addresses the more common presentation of HLA peptides -A2, the company has developed specific expertise in the non-classical class 1 MHC molecule, HLA-E, which has the potential to impact a broader set of cancer patient antigens. Specifically, Abexxa has developed a first T cell receptor (TCR) -type antibody that can be used to disrupt the NKG2A: HLA-E immune checkpoint axis in oncology. Abexxa molecules are also formulated to recruit immune cells targeting HLA-E peptide complexes on tumors.
In 2016, the Venture Fund of Boehringer Ingelheim, the arm of the company that invests in breakthrough therapeutic and digital approaches, provided Abexxa with seed investment funding. Later that year, Abexxa won the Boehringer Ingelheim Innovation Award, which facilitates business growth and rewards new businesses for their dedication to innovation. The award allowed Abexxa to expand its operations into a shared lab space in Cambridge, Massachusetts to continue its research. Boehringer Ingelheim’s investment in Abexxa demonstrates how the company seeks to drive innovation in key biotech communities, including the Dallas-Fort Worth region.
“The investment of the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund in 2016 was a watershed moment for Abexxa,” said Debra Wawro Weidanz, co-founder and CEO of Abexxa. “The acquisition by Boehringer Ingelheim allows our team to access the expertise and capabilities of the company in immuno-oncology and antibody development and to have the opportunity to translate the Abexxa technology into a clinical asset Said Jon Weidanz, Ph.D., co-founder and CSO of Abexxa.
This transaction is the latest in a series of acquisitions and strategic collaborations that reinforce Boehringer Ingelheim’s overall oncology strategy, bringing together cancer immunology and cancer cell-directed therapies to fight cancer. This strategy further strengthened Boehringer Ingelheim’s position in oncology through the development of leading assets and robust capabilities in cancer vaccines, oncolytic viruses, T cell activators, antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) and myeloid and stromal cell modulators. By combining its world-class internal research and development activities with that of highly innovative biotechnology companies like Abexxa, Boehringer Ingelheim is developing innovative therapies in cancer immunology and accelerating the delivery of the next generation of cancer treatments.
The total transaction includes an upfront payment, milestones, and other matching payments. Abexxa will continue to operate in the Arlington area as a family business of Boehringer Ingelheim, working closely with colleagues at Boehringer Ingelheim’s US research site in Ridgefield, Connecticut.