Progress

Exploring new horizons – together we are stronger

Transforming bright scientific ideas into new medicines for patients in need requires staying power–and, increasingly, also a strong international network of partners. This is why Boehringer Ingelheim is continually seeking strong partners all over the world to pursue new paths in drug discovery.

INNOVATION PARTNERSHIPS IN BOSTON

Boehringer Ingelheim has an office in Boston, USA with the goal of expanding its network of scientists and organisations. As an example, Boehringer Ingelheim is working with scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s Fibrosis Network in order to study new treatment options for fibrotic diseases.

Fibrosis is characterised by a pathological proliferation of fibrous connective tissue in organs. The Boehringer Ingelheim and Harvard University scientists carry out research into diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, chronic kidney failure and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. They look for the pathophysiological mechanisms that are at the root of fibrosis and that could prove game-changing in treating fibrotic diseases. The advantages of this partnership are that the researchers are now able to pursue their work in much greater depth than before, leverage synergies and share resources efficiently.

CROSSING BOUNDARIES

In 2015 Boehringer Ingelheim launched a new strategy for its global research organisation. It combines a focus on the company’s own strengths with increased use of internal synergies and a bold commitment to external innovation. The ‘Research Beyond Borders’ initiative represents a new approach, with the aim to explore novel scientific approaches and innovative technologies within and beyond Boehringer Ingelheim’s core therapeutic areas that could be future focus areas for the company.

Life science research in Asia is rapidly growing in importance, offering significant new opportunities for pharmaceutical discovery research in particular areas of focus. Regenerative medicine is one of these areas of excellence. A three-year partnership with Kyoto University in Japan is now under way. Together, scientists from Boehringer Ingelheim and Kyoto University investigate novel therapeutic approaches to restore the hearing ability of people with disabling hearing loss. Over 360 million people live with this severe condition and 32 million of them are children. Due to the worldwide aging population, a dramatic increase in frequency of the condition is expected as hearing loss increases with age. There is no effective treatment that could restore hearing loss and sufferers have to rely on hearing aids.

Hair cells in the inner ear.

 

The joint research team pursues a new idea, aiming to understand the mechanisms for the regeneration of damaged hair cells in the inner ear. In hearing-impaired people, these sensory cells no longer work properly. New therapeutic approaches are intended to restore them, overcoming the limitations of hearing aids.

Boehringer Ingelheim opened an office in September 2016 at Kyoto University’s Medical Innovation Center to establish other collaborations with scientists in Japan.

To broaden Boehringer Ingelheim’s research in the field of hearing loss, the ‘Research Beyond Borders’ team has recently launched another partnership with China Southeast University in Nanjing that will focus on complementary approaches to restoring the hearing ability.

COLLABORATION TO COMBAT CANCER

The goal of Boehringer Ingelheim’s cancer research is to develop new therapies to improve patients’ lives. To achieve this, the company continues to expand its network of partnerships with academic institutions and biotechnology companies. These relationships focus on early, emerging science and technology aimed at true breakthroughs in therapy. The needs of patients and caregivers as well as healthcare system requirements guide the researchers.

Oncolytic viruses are among the most promising therapeutic approaches in cancer research.

 

One example is the strategic partnership with ViraTherapeutics, a biotech company located in Innsbruck, Austria which investigates virus-based immunotherapeutics for cancer treatment. In April 2015, the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund became the lead investor in ViraTherapeutics, as oncolytic viruses are among the most promising emerging therapeutic approaches in cancer research. Together, the two companies have pursued early-stage research examining cancer-destroying oncolytic viruses since September 2016.

Oncolytic viruses act by infecting and destroying cancer cells. This process also leads to the release of tumor antigens, which are normally hidden from the immune system in the body’s cells. This so-called in situ vaccination effect triggers a sustained response of the adaptive immune system against tumour cells.