Therapies 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.
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.
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)