ViraTherapeutics and Boehringer Ingelheim announced a long term collaboration to jointly develop a next generation oncolytic virus therapy platform and to investigate ViraTherapeutic’s lead candidate VSV-GP (Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) glycoprotein (GP)) alone and in combination with other therapies.
ViraTherapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in the development of oncolytic virus therapies, has developed its novel technology with joint support from its lead investors EMBL Ventures and Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) and will now be responsible for preclinical and clinical testing of VSV-GP in Phase I trials. Under the terms of the collaboration, Boehringer Ingelheim receives the right to acquire ViraTherapeutics after conclusion of Phase I clinical development.
“We are very excited about this new collaboration with ViraTherapeutics, a company for which the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund is a core investor,” said Dr. Michel Pairet, member of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Board of Managing Directors responsible for Innovation. “Oncolytic viruses are among the most promising new therapy approaches in cancer research and the technology developed by ViraTherapeutics may offer significant advantages compared to others currently under development. The new collaboration is an example of Boehringer Ingelheim’s increasing focus on partnering and further complements the company’s growing immune-oncology pipeline that includes among others, a therapeutic cancer vaccine and next generation checkpoint inhibitors.”
Oncolytic virus therapy is a cancer treatment approach that uses a virus that infects and breaks down cancer cells. Tumor antigens that are normally hidden from the immune system inside the cells are released, triggering an immune response to fight the tumor. VSV-GP has a shorter replication time than other oncolytic virus platforms currently under development. This oncolytic virus does not integrate in the DNA and has been modified to avoid neural inflammation associated with wild type viruses. In VSV-GP the glycoprotein of the Vesicular Stomatitis Virus has been replaced by the glycoprotein of the Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV) to conceal the virus from the immune system. In preclinical models it did not induce virus neutralizing antibodies, potentially enabling repeated administration.
“This is an important milestone for the development of ViraTherapeutics. The team has worked hard on our technology platform and lead candidate. In addition to its oncolytic activity, VSV-GP has demonstrated the ability to prime and boost an anti-cancer immune response and does not appear to prompt effective antiviral immune responses. These properties are expected to allow ground-breaking applications of this novel treatment approach. In the collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim we can now fully explore the platform and therapeutic potential of our VSV-GP oncolytic virus,” said Prof. Dr. Dorothee von Laer, scientific founder 2 and CEO of ViraTherapeutics. “We will also continue to investigate VSV-GPs potential to be armed with therapeutic genes as well as antigens for its use as a prophylactic or therapeutic vaccine vector.”
Boehringer Ingelheim is combining a focus on cutting-edge science with a long-term view enabling the company to create a stable environment for the development of the next generation of medical breakthroughs. This new project adds another building block in this long-term strategy to improve the lives of patients with high unmet medical needs.