PureTech Health Inks Deal with Boehringer Ingelheim for Immuno-Oncology
Published: Apr 17, 2019
By Mark Terry
Before 2019, PureTech described itself as a science and technology development and commercialization company. As such, it wasn’t exactly a venture fund or an accelerator, but it typically started companies from ground zero, which it initially wholly owned. In that respect, it was something of a biotech startup factory.
But in the last year, the company has stepped away from that model and shifted its focus to its internal pipeline and partnerships with major biopharma players. Today, PureTech, which has headquarters in Boston, but is listed in London, signed a research collaboration deal with Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim.
The companies will work to develop novel product candidates using PureTech’s proprietary lymphatic targeting technology for immune modulation. Boehringer is paying PureTech $26 million upfront, which includes research support and preclinical milestones. PureTech is eligible to receive more than $200 million in development and sales milestones, as well as royalties on any product sales.
The initial focus will be on an immuno-oncology product candidate selected by Boehringer Ingelheim.
“We see great promise in leveraging PureTech’s platform to target the lymphatic system and deliver therapeutic candidates directly to the lymph nodes responsible for priming, educating and proliferating immune cells,” stated Clive Wood, Boehringer Ingelheim’s global head of discovery research. “The approach is a potentially powerful tool for modulating the immune system and may allow us to improve efficacy and reduce systematic toxicities through precise targeting.”
This lymphatic targeting platform is being developed by PureTech’s internal R&D division. It uses the gut’s lipid transport systems to allow oral administration and transport of drug candidates directly through the lymph system and bypass first-pass liver metabolism. It delivers the drugs directly to the mesenteric lymph nodes, which, the company says, program as much as 70% of circulating adaptive immune cells.
PureTech has three platforms focused on the lymphatic system, as well as two immuno-oncology programs, one targeting a subset of T-cells and the other against a macrophage immunosuppression modulator. In 2018, the company entered a deal with Roche to utilize milk-derived exosomes to deliver Roche’s antisense oligonucleotides.
In a BioCentury article, PureTech founder and chief executive officer Daphne Zohar said of their earlier focus, “VCs contribute mostly financial resources. We contribute mostly human resources. We establish the companies, initiate the programs and run them from an operational perspective. We’re not a company that invests in other people’s companies. We’re a company developing medicines. The structure of our company is less important than the approach we take to create new medicines.”
These affiliate companies are making news in their own rights. On April 11, one of its affiliates, Sonde Health, announced a $16 million Series A financing. The round was led by JM Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, with participation from MP Healthcare Venture Management, the venture arm of Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation, Neoteny 4, Canepa Healthcare and PureTech. Sonde focuses on using non-linguistic vocal characteristics of recorded speech as biomarkers to assess health. Those areas include mental health conditions such as depression, in addition to respiratory, and cardiovascular conditions.
But the company has more recently placed a bigger emphasis on pharma partnerships, inking deals with Amgen, Novartis, Shire, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, Johnson & Johnson and Roche. In addition to its lymphatic delivery platforms, the company is focused on the microbiome, the trillions of bacteria that live in the body and the communication that goes on between the brain, immune system and gut.