Boehringer Ingelheim (Germany) has entered a new collaboration with AbbVie (US) to develop two new candidates for immune diseases, including psoriasis and Crohn’s disease.

boehringer_ingelheim_abbvie_immune_psoriasis_crohn's_asthma_psoriatic_arthritisTherapies for immune diseases continue to attract Pharma’s attention (and money). This time, two of 25 leading Big Pharma worldwide, AbbVie and Boehringer Ingelheim, have partnered to develop 2 different immunological candidates.

One of the candidates is BI 655064, an antagonistic anti-CD40 antibody in phase I development. Tackling the CD40-CD40L pathway (involved in modulating immune response), it could potentially be used to treat a range of immune diseases like lupus nephritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

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CD40 and CD40L are involved in the interaction between dendritic cells (that collect and ‘show’ possible threats to the immune system) and T cells (including helper CD4 and cytotoxic T cells).

But the forefront candidate is BI 655066, which is already in phase III trials. The drug is an anti-IL-23 antibody, which aims to block Interleukin-23 (signalling protein) involved in skin inflammation.

A drug with the same mechanism of action, ustekinumab, is already on the market. It is commercialized as Stelara by Jansen (J&J‘s pharmaceutical subsidiary, which also has stakes in the immunological field).

The candidate of Boehringer Ingelheim has shown better results with psoriasis patients (compared to ustekinumab) in a recent phase II trial. Thus, it has the potential to become best-in-class for the treatment of psoriasis.

psoriasis_il23_abbvie_boehringer_ingelheim_bi655066_ustekinumab_crohn's_asthma_psoriatic_arthritis

Figure 2: Role of Interleukin-23 in the development of psoriasis.

This drug is also being studied for other conditions. It is in phase II trials for Crohn’s disease and asthma, and it is expected that phase II trials for psoriatic arthritis will begin soon.

If this candidate is shown to have good performance for any (or more) of these indications, it could tap into a very profitable market. AbbVie has a huge blockbuster in the field, Humira, which is now tangled in a biosimilar war. There are also some non-biologics candidates, like the antibiotic from RedHill (Israel).

AbbVie has paid over €540M ($595M) upfront for the commercialization of these biologics, while the future milestone payments to Boehringer Ingelheim remain undisclosed.

Will this new partnership allow AbbVie to secure its very profitable leading position in therapies for immune diseases?


Feature image credit: Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH

Figure 1: Thaiss et. al (2011) Chemokines: a new dendritic cell signal for T cell activation. Frontiers in Immunology (doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2011.00031)

Figure 2: Becher and Pantelyushin (2012) Hiding under the skin: Interleukin-17–producing γδ T cells go under the skin? Nature Medicine (doi: 10.1038/nm.3016)

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