Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim and US biotech MacroGenics have hooked up under a global partnership to discover, develop and commercialise antibody-based therapeutics, potentially bolstering the latter firm’s books by $2.1 billion.

The companies are combining forces to develop a range of drug candidates - based on MacroGenics’ Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) antibody platform - for a number of therapeutic areas such as immunology, oncology and respiratory.

According to MacroGenics, its DART platform is a “bispecific” antibody technology that enables the generation of highly stable antibody-based therapeutic molecules that can target two different antigens at the same time and have very favourable manufacturing properties.

And explaining the firm’s interest in the technology and collaboration, Wolfgang Rettig, Boehringer’s senior vice president of corporate research, said combining the DART-based antibody platform with Boehringer's experience and capabilities in drug discovery and development “has the potential to generate breakthrough medicines that will help patients with a range of diseases which cannot be adequately treated at present”.

The companies will initially share responsibility for discovery and certain preclinical activities, but the German drugmaker will then use its financial muscle to fund all subsequent preclinical, clinical, regulatory, commercial and manufacturing activities for promising DART-based products resulting from their work.

Payments to MacroGenics should total about $60 million in the first three years of the alliance, from an upfront fee, annual maintenance fees, R&D funding and near-term research-based milestones, and Boehringer also intends to make an equity investment in the biotech, it said.

But MacroGenics could stand to receive much, much more if candidates are successful, as the terms of the deal allow for development, regulatory and commercial milestones of up to $210 million for each of the ten DART programmess in case of full commercial success of multiple DART products.

Pfizer deal

The deal comes alongside a separate global research collaboration between MacroGenics and Pfizer aiming to discover, develop and commercialise DART products directed at two undisclosed cancer targets, further validating its antibody platform.

While financial specifics were not revealed, the companies said MacroGenics will receive an upfront cash payment and research funding, as well as escalating preclinical, clinical, regulatory and commercial milestone payments and tiered royalties on sales of products resulting from the collaboration.

These alliances signal quite a turnaround in fortunes for the US biotech, which alongside partner Eli Lilly announced last week was hit by the suspension of a Phase I clinical trial assessing teplizumab for Type 1 diabetes, after an independent panel of experts found that it failed to slow disease progression.