Boehringer Buys ViraTherapeutics’ Shares to Expand Oncolytic Virus Program

Boehringer Buys ViraTherapeutics’ Shares to Expand Oncolytic Virus Program

Boehringer Ingelheim has bought all ViraTherapeutics’ shares, acquiring the company’s oncolytic virus platform and treatment candidates. The deal totaled €210 million (almost $247 million), and was based on a stock option agreement that both companies signed in August 2016.

Oncolytic viruses, the expertise of ViraTherapeutics, are viruses that selectively infect and kill cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed. Simply put, they function as “biological carriers” that enable the delivery of a cancer cell-directed therapy.

ViraTherapeutics’ lead candidate, VSV-GP, is a modified vesicular stomatitis virus that is being developed for a broad range of cancers.

According to the company, the potential treatment fulfills all criteria of an ideal oncolytic therapy, being extremely rapid and efficient at killing human cancer cells and not causing inflammation associated with other viruses. Also, the virus does not integrate into the cell’s genome and can be harmed with additional genes.

Preclinical studies have demonstrated VSV-GP’s favorable safety profile and its promising results when used in combination with Boehringer’s crucial immune modulatory principles, which are currently under development.

These features, plus the candidate’s ability to be loaded with an immunotherapeutic component, make VSV-GP an ideal contender for the treatment of advanced cancers.

With this purchase, Boehringer Ingelheim will make use of ViraTherapeutics’ VSV-GP and supply it with an immunotherapeutic agent.

“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,” Heinz Schwer, PhD, CEO of ViraTherapeutics, said in a press release.

“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,” said Michel Pairet, PhD, member of Boehringer Ingelheim’s board of managing directors responsible for Boehringer Ingelheim’s research and development.

“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,” Pairet added.

ViraTherapeutics, headquartered in Innsbruck, Austria, now will operate as a separate unit of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Discovery Research organization, keeping its close connections to the Medical University of Innsbruck and regional scientific community.

This acquisition reinforces Boehringer Ingelheim’s pledge of changing patients’ lives with the development of viral-based immuno-oncology therapies.