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Pharma Gains Fibrosis Technology in $1B+ Deal

Stuart Cook

Stuart Cook (Duke-NUS)

9 Jan. 2020. Drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim is acquiring an antibody technology that blocks actions of a signaling protein associated with a range of fibrosis diseases. The deal is expected to bring biotechnology enterprise Enleofen Bio in Singapore as much as $1 billion for each product developed from the company’s technology.

Enleofen Bio is a three year-old spin-off company from National Heart Centre Singapore, part of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre. Enleofen designs synthetic antibodies that block activity of the protein interleukin-11, a signaling protein that promotes inflammation and growth of fibrotic issue in a number of human organs: liver, lung, kidney, retina, bowel, heart, and skin.

Stuart Cook, a professor of cardiovascular sciences at Duke-NUS Medical School, conducts research in the interleukin-11 pathway that links the protein’s signals to fibrosis across human organs. Cook is one of the founders and a current director of Enleofen Bio that licenses the anti-interleukin-11 antibody technology from Duke-NUS.

In preclinical studies, Cook and colleagues show injections of antibodies that block interleukin-11 signals reduce fibrosis build-ups and other liver damage in lab mice induced with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, an advanced form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Enleofen Bio says it has one product, code-named ENx108A, to treat fibrosis in a number of diseases from interleukin-11, or IL-11 signals, ready for clinical trials.

The deal with Enleofen Bio gives Boehringer Ingelheim in Ingelheim, Germany worldwide exclusive rights to Enleofen’s anti-interleukin-11 technology. Boehringer Ingelheim already has nintedanib on the market, a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or build up of fibrosis in the lungs, marketed under the brand name Ofev. The drug maker expects to further develop the Enleofen technology into disease-specific products, working with the Singapore researchers.

Under the agreement, Boehringer Ingelheim will be responsible for all clinical, regulatory, and commercial development of new products from the anti-interleukin-11 technology. In return Enleofen is receiving at least $1 billion in initial and milestone payments for each product developed from the technology. Further financial details were not disclosed.

In a  Boehringer Ingelheim statement, Cook says Enleofen Bio is eager “to engage Boehringer Ingelheim, a leader in anti-fibrotic therapy R&D to develop further anti-IL-11 therapies to begin to address the unmet medical needs of patients worldwide.” Cook adds, “The preclinical data across a range of conditions are unprecedented and this new approach of targeting IL-11 could be a game changer.”

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