Boehringer Ingelheim is intensifying efforts to combat non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) through a new multi-target collaboration with Suzhou Ribo Life Science and Ribocure Pharmaceuticals (Ribo), where it plans to develop small interfering RNA (siRNA)-based treatments. 

The agreement’s value is set to potentially exceed $2bn and will allow Boehringer to capitalise on Ribo’s RIBO-GalSTAR platform for targeted siRNA therapeutics in liver cells.  

This collaboration comes six years after Boehringer joined forces with Dicerna Pharmaceuticals to discover and develop new therapeutics using Dicerna’s GalXC technology platform, for the treatment of liver diseases including NASH. Under the terms of the deal, Dicerna received over $200m from Boehringer, including an upfront payment, and development and commercial milestone payments. 

In May 2021, Dicerna announced that an siRNA candidate called DCR-LIV2 conjugated with a hepatocyte-targeting ligand was accepted by Boehringer for development, but the latter company has not announced any updates on its progress since then. Later, in November 2021, Novo Nordisk acquired Dicerna in a $3.3bn transaction that gave Novo access to Dicerna’s RNAi platform. 

Earlier in 2017, Boehringer signed an agreement with MiNA Therapeutics, developing compounds to target NASH. At the time, MiNA received an upfront payment of $307m from Boehringer. As per GlobalData, MiNA has a small activating RNA (saRNA) therapeutic in the discovery stage for NASH. 

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By GlobalData

GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology

NASH is a form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease characterised by inflammation and liver cell damage, often associated with the accumulation of fat in the liver. Unlike simple fatty liver, NASH can progress into more severe conditions including cirrhosis and liver cancer. Historically, it has been challenging to develop any effective treatments for NASH with the field being littered with several high-profile failures. Still, there is a limited, but steady pipeline of candidates that continue to be explored.  

In the statement accompanying the partnership, senior vice president and global head of cardiometabolic diseases research at Boehringer Søren Tullin said: “This new partnership is part of our commitment to collaborate with peers worldwide to address the interconnected nature of CRM diseases. Our goal is to develop the next wave of innovative medicines that will lead to a holistic health gain for patients.” 

In addition to NASH, Boehringer is targeting obesity, with the German company releasing positive Phase II data for survodutide, a subcutaneous long-acting dual glucagon and GLP-1 agonist which is being developed in partnership with Zealand Pharma, in June of last year. The drug is meant to treat individuals with a body mass index (BMI) above 27kg/m², and NASH. 

According to a patient-based forecast on GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center, survodutide is predicted to generate $707m in 2030.