Boehringer Ingelheim is ending its virology research programme, a move which will result in the closure of its facility in Quebec, Canada.

The winding-down of virology will result in the closure of the German company's site in Laval during the first quarter of 2013, and will lead to the loss of 170 employees. Michel Pairet, the board member responsible for R&D, noted that in virology, compared to other therapeutic areas in which the company is conducting research, "the demands for medical innovation are shifting significantly due to the availability of new medications and also the emphasis on prevention through vaccination, a field in which Boehringer is not active".

He added that "with the renewed focus on the diseases of high unmet medical need, and considering the scientific possibilities, we decided to conclude virology research. Theodore Witek, president of Boehringer in Canada, stressed that the decision "is not a reflection on the work done by our employees at the Laval facility, which has been consistently of the highest quality". He went on to say that "we are treating all affected employees with fairness and respect in recognition of their contributions and service".

Boehringer's best-known products in virology are the antivirals Aptivus (tipranavir) and Viramune (nevirapine) which have been on the market for a long time as AIDS treatments. It is also been working on two oral drugs for hepatitis C, namely BI 201335, an NS3/4A protease inhibitor in Phase III and BI 207127, an NS5B RNA-dependent polymerase inhibitor in Phase II.

Boehringer spokeswoman Julia Meyer-Kleinmann told PharmaTimes World News that the development side will continue and as for the two hep C compounds, "we are further developing them full speed with high priority". She added that all is going to plan with BI 201335 and BI 207127.

The company will now focus on six therapeutic areas: respiratory, cardiometabolic, oncology, neurology, immunology and infectious diseases.