November 16, 2018
Boehringer Ingelheim and Epizyme, Inc. (Nasdaq: EPZM) announced a new global collaboration focused on the research, development and commercialization of novel small molecule inhibitors directed toward two previously unaddressed epigenetic targets as potential therapies for people with cancer. Specifically, these targets are enzymes within the helicase and histone acetyltransferase (HAT) families that when dysregulated have been linked to the development of cancers that currently lack therapeutic options.
“Boehringer Ingelheim’s collaboration with Epizyme furthers our strategic vision to profoundly impact the oncology treatment landscape by enabling a new generation of precision medicines,” said Clive R. Wood, Ph.D., Senior Corporate Vice President, Discovery Research, Boehringer Ingelheim. “We are excited to launch this partnership with Epizyme and to work together with them to advance epigenetic inhibitors that have the potential to transform the lives of patients and help win the fight against difficult-to-treat cancers.”
Epigenetic modification affects how genes are biologically regulated. More than half of cancers can stem from functional errors in epigenetic modification. In particular cases, epigenetic dysregulation is associated with alterations in specific components of gene regulation, which can be used to identify patients most likely to benefit from the therapy. What makes both targets compelling is not only the clear role they play in cancer but that both targets have patient stratification biomarkers, which will enable a focus on the patients most likely to benefit from these potential treatments. Epizyme is a leader in the discovery of the roles of such enzymes and their development as therapy targets.
“This partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to develop treatments for two novel epigenetic targets, which have been historically viewed as undruggable, further validates the promise of epigenetics for oncology and our pioneering leadership in this field,” said Robert Bazemore, president and chief executive officer of Epizyme. “By combining our innovative target identification and research capabilities with Boehringer Ingelheim’s world-class drug development and commercialization expertise, we are aiming to realize the full potential of these targets and our platform, while continuing to focus on executing development of our lead program in multiple ongoing and planned clinical trials.”
The collaboration has a strategic goal to focus on lung and other solid tumor cancers in patients with defined mutations, sub-populations that currently lack precision medicine treatments. Under the terms of the agreement, Boehringer Ingelheim and Epizyme will jointly research and develop a helicase program, with both parties sharing U.S. commercialization responsibilities and Boehringer Ingelheim assuming responsibility for commercialization outside the U.S. Epizyme and Boehringer Ingelheim will share research responsibilities for the HAT program, with Boehringer Ingelheim assuming responsibility for worldwide development and commercialization.
Epizyme will receive an upfront payment of $15 million and an additional $5 million in research funding in 2019. Epizyme is eligible to receive more than $280 million in additional payments for research, development, regulatory and commercial milestones. For the helicase program, Epizyme will fund a portion of the global development costs, retain a share of U.S. profits and receive tiered royalties on ex-U.S. sales. For the HAT program, Epizyme is eligible to receive tiered royalties on worldwide sales.
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