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Boehringer Ingelheim and Covant to collaborate on cancer immunotherapies

Boehringer Ingelheim and Covant Therapeutics have entered into an exclusive research collaboration and worldwide licensing agreement to develop new cancer immunotherapies.

The partners plan to develop a small-molecule inhibitor of RNA editing enzyme ADAR1 that could be used in combination with other immunotherapies to increase their efficacy.

Covant explained that existing immunotherapies only work in a minority of patients and that inhibiting ADAR1 has the potential to address this challenge by turning ‘cold’ tumours into ‘hot’ tumours, which have more immune cells present in the tumour microenvironment.

“ADAR1 is an exciting immuno-oncology target with significant therapeutic potential,” said Lamine Mbow, global head of cancer immunology and immune modulation at Boehringer. “By partnering with Covant’s exceptional scientific team and powerful platform, we aim to bring next-generation immunotherapies to cancer patients.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Covant will be responsible for the discovery of the ADAR1 small molecule inhibitors and will receive an upfront payment from Boehringer of $10m, as well as up to $471m in additional milestone payments plus royalties.

The drug discovery company will use its platform, which combines high-throughput chemoproteomics-based screening in the native setting with structural proteomics.

Dr Ivan Cornella, chief scientific officer of Covant, said: “We look forward to working with the scientists at Boehringer Ingelheim to advance our programme against ADAR1, a key, hard-to-drug immuno-oncology target.

“Boehringer Ingelheim has a leading oncology and immuno-oncology pipeline and their decision to work with Covant is a testament to the strength of our team and approach.”

The partnership follows Boehringer’s strategic collaboration and licensing agreement with 3T Biosciences in January to discover and develop next-generation cancer therapies.

That collaboration will see Boehringer input its patient-derived T-cell receptor (TCR) data into 3T’s discovery platform, 3T TRACE, with the aim of identifying novel antigen targets for cancer immunotherapies.

“3T’s 3T-TRACE discovery platform has the potential to transform the treatment of cancers and beyond,” 3T’s president and chief executive officer, Stefan Scherer, said at the time of the announcement. “By using data from patients for patients we aim to discover the best immunogenic targets for multiple tumour indications and across patient populations.



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