Boehringer axes IPF deal with South Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics over toxicity concerns

Boehringer Ingelheim and South Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics have decided to axe their collaboration over a potential new drug for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), BBT-877.

The German pharma had hoped the drug would be a successor to Ofev (nintedanib), which is one of its most important drugs and is approved for the potentially fatal lung-scarring disease.

Signed in July last year, Boehringer paid 45 million euros up front and the deal would have been worth up to 1.1 billion euros in milestone payments if trials had worked out plus royalties.

While the companies gave no further details about why the partnership came to an abrupt halt, the German pharma announced earlier this year that it was concerned about the drug’s potential toxicity. Bridge said that it still plans to continue developing BBT-977 to treat IPF.

At the time the agreement was signed, BBT-877 was in phase 1 development but shares in Korean biotech tanked in August when Boehringer announced that BBT-877 would need additional testing.

This delayed a phase 2 trial and at the time Bridge acknowledged it was possible that the German pharma would return rights.

Boehringer had wanted to conduct two further toxicity tests following results from preclinical trials.

Following the cancellation of the tie-up, Bridge will regain all rights to BBT-877, which is also in development for other fibrotic diseases.

CEO James Lee said: “After receiving and reviewing data and dossiers, we will closely work with regulatory authorities to clarify future development plans and necessary studies to initiate human trials in the future.”

BBT-877 was originally discovered by Korea’s LegoChem Biosciences and licensed to Bridge Biotherapeutics in 2017.

It works by inhibiting autotaxin, a protein discovered in the early 1990s that is an important enzyme for generating the lipid-signalling molecule, lysophosphatidic acid.

Founded in 2015, Bridge’s clinical pipeline includes BBT-401, a first-in-class Pellino-1 inhibitor for ulcerative colitis.

It is also developing BBT-176, a potent targeted cancer therapy for non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Bridge is resident at Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS facility in Shanghai.

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