Boehringer Ingelheim has entered a strategic collaboration with UK biotech Enara Bio to research and discover novel targeted cancer immunotherapies.

The agreement will leverage Enara’s Dark Antigen discovery platform to identify and validate novel dark antigens in up to three tumour types across the lung and gastrointestinal cancer areas.

Dark antigens are a new class of cancer-associated antigens that derive from genomic dark matter – the portion of the human genome that is normally not expressed as protein.

In healthy cells, dark antigen-encoding sequences are usually silenced but are activated and presented on tumour cells – they are often associated with specific cancer types and are shared across patients.

Within the collaboration, Boehringer and Enara will aim to discover shared antigens that could lead to the development of vaccines that can be used in a broad group of cancer patients.

Under the terms of the agreement, Boehringer has the option to license dark antigens discovered and validated by Enara.

In addition, Boehringer will be responsible for all non-clinical and clinical development, as well as commercialisation of associated cancer immunotherapies – including therapeutic vaccines and T cell redirecting biologics.

In return, Enara will be eligible to receive an undisclosed upfront payment, as well as research, preclinical milestone and licensing fees for each tumour type explored as part of the collaboration.

On top of that, Enara could receive over €876m in clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones, in addition to royalties on future product sales.

“We are excited to partner with Enara Bio as part of our mission to bring transformative new treatments to cancer patients,” said Jonathon Sedgwick, senior vice president and global head, Cancer Immunology & Immune Modulation Research, Boehringer Ingelheim.

“Enara Bio’s unique discovery platform offers a novel and highly differentiated approach that will allow us to look beyond the known proteome to identify and characterise Dark Antigens to support the development of T Cell Receptor (TCR)-directed immunotherapies and therapeutic vaccines,” he added.