Boehringer Ingelheim and Eureka Therapeutics have signed a research deal to discover novel therapeutic antibodies in oncology.

The alliance will see Eureka use its technology to identify antibodies recognising intracellular proteins, which represent around 90% of cancer-specific targets, many of which were deemed undruggable until relatively recently.

Current anticancer monoclonal antibodies on the market target extracellular or cell surface proteins, but these only account for a tiny proportion of cellular proteins and are not tumour-specific, so targeting intracellular oncogenic proteins has become a key focus cancer research. 

Those that can be displayed via the MHC-complex (major histocompatibility complex) on the cell surface will be selected by Boehringer to develop into better therapies for cancer patients, for whom treatment options are inadequate or non-existent, it said.

Specifics of the deal were kept under wraps, but it was disclosed that Eureka will bank an undisclosed upfront technology access fee and research funding for each program, and may receive technical success fees, option exercise fees, and other downstream payments.