As part of expanding its efforts in oncology, Boehringer Ingelheim has linked up with the USA's Forma Therapeutics in a cancer pact that could be worth over $800 million to the latter.

The agreement will focus on discovering small molecule drugs against "oncology-relevant protein-protein interactions". Cashwise, Forma will receive $65 million in up-front payments and research funding to screen for and optimise compounds against multiple oncology targets over the next four years.

Forma could be eligible for up to $750 million in pre-commercial milestones for programmes resulting from the collaboration. Further financial details were not disclosed.

Kenneth Bair, head of R&D at Forma, said that "many of the ‘un-druggable’ and/or novel targets in oncology involve protein-protein interactions,” adding that "we are really excited about tackling these essential targets with Boehringer". The deal with the German firm comes just over six months since a deal was signed with Roche's Genentech unit and other alliances are in place with Novartis, Eisai and Cubist.

As for Boehringer, oncology has become a key therapeutic area in the last few years. Heading its pipeline is afatinib for non-small cell lung and breast cancers and BIBF 1120, which is being investigated in NSCLC and ovarian cancer.