INGELHEIM, Germany–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Boehringer Ingelheim today announced that it has acquired all shares of ViraTherapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in the development of oncolytic viral therapies. ViraTherapeutics developed the lead candidate VSV-GP (Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) with modified glycoprotein (GP)), which is being investigated alone and in combination with other therapies. The total transaction value of EUR 210 million is based on an option and share purchase agreement signed between the companies in August 2016.
Oncolytic viral therapy is a cancer treatment approach with two modes of action. First, the virus specifically replicates in and kills cancer cells. Second, viral infection stimulates the immune system to recognize these same cancer cells, leading to immune-mediated killing of both infected and non-infected cancer cells, further enhancing tumor control. Boehringer Ingelheim and ViraTherapeutics are working to develop a next generation oncolytic viral therapy platform. The lead investigational candidate leveraging the platform, VSV-GP, has shown promising results in pre-clinical models, especially in combination with key immune modulatory principles Boehringer Ingelheim is developing.
“The acquisition of ViraTherapeutics with its exciting oncolytic virus platform is the conclusion of a trusting and close cooperation over two years,” said Dr. Heinz Schwer, CEO of ViraTherapeutics. “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.”
“I want to thank the team around scientific founder Dorothee von Laer, CEO Heinz Schwer and COO Lisa Egerer for their dedication to research and scientific progress that led to a productive collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim and ultimately to the early exercise of the purchase option,” said Dr. Klaus Schollmeier, Chairman of ViraTherapeutics’ advisory board. “I also want to thank the investors and my fellow board members for their hands-on commitment to this project. I am convinced that ViraTherapeutics’ research will become core to Boehringer Ingelheim’s oncology product pipeline.”
Using a dual approach for potential treatment options, specifically combining immuno-oncology approaches with tumor cell-directed treatments, is central to Boehringer Ingelheim’s cancer immunology research strategy. Oncolytic virus-based therapies are consistent with and complement that strategy.
“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 Dr. Michel Pairet, 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.”
ViraTherapeutics was a portfolio company of the two venture investors EMBL Ventures and the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF). BIVF is focused on strategic investment in highly innovative biotechnology and start-up companies to help drive innovation in medical science. The BIVF has EUR 250 million under management and currently supervises a portfolio of 22 active companies and is one of the most active investors in immuno-oncology world-wide.