Boehringer teams with Phenomic AI to discover stroma-rich cancer targets

Nov. 29, 2023

Boehringer Ingelheim and Phenomic AI have entered into a strategic collaboration and licensing agreement to discover targets important in stroma-rich cancers. 

According to Phenomic, stroma-rich cancers, such as colorectal and pancreatic cancers, are amongst the hardest to treat in part because of the tumor stroma: a complex tissue that protects cancerous cells from therapies and supports cancer growth. Phenomic’s platform aims to address this challenge by identifying targets to potentially overcome the barrier the tumor stroma creates.

In the deal, the partners will leverage Phenomic’s expertise in target identification and stromal biology based on its proprietary scTx single-cell transcriptomics platform which will be used to enhance Boehringer’s efforts to develop first-in-class medicines for a range of cancers.

Toronto-based Phenomic launched in 2020 with the goal of using AI/ML to reveal drug targets that emerge from cell-cell interactions and drive novel antibody drug discovery for challenging diseases. Its scTx platform integrates one of the world’s largest single-cell RNA datasets from human tissues with comprehensive analysis and validation tools. Advanced AI and machine learning algorithms enable the analysis of a diversified database including imaging, RNA sequencing and spatial transcriptomics data.

Under the agreement, Boehringer will have the option to license targets discovered as a basis for novel cancer therapeutics. The drugmaker will handle all non-clinical and clinical development, as well as commercialization of associated cancer therapies. Phenomic will receive upfront and near-term payments of approximately $9 million and is also eligible to receive more than $500 million in licensing fees and milestones.

This is Boehringer's second AI collaboration this week. Earlier this week, the drugmaker announced a partnership with IBM that will give Boehringer access to an IBM-developed, pre-trained AI model to discover novel candidate antibodies for the development of efficient therapeutics. The goal of the deal — which was announced without financial details — is to make the vision of in silico biologic drug discovery a reality.