With 2 planned launches, Boehringer Ingelheim looks to make a name for itself in oncology

With 25 launches planned through 2030, Boehringer Ingelheim is gearing up for a busy few years. As a part of that, the German drugmaker is looking forward to flexing its oncology muscles with two new cancer drug launches in 2025.

While the company’s overall pipeline is filled with early-stage assets acquired through recent business development deals, its oncology R&D efforts are largely centered around the late-stage prospects brigimadlin and zongertinib.

Brigimadlin, a member of the MDM2-p53 antagonist drug class, recently entered a pivotal trial testing the candidate in patients with the rare cancer dedifferentiated liposarcoma (DDLPS). 

DDLPS is an ultra-rare aggressive cancer with “very, very dismal prognosis and a high unmet medical need,” Boehringer’s global head of therapeutic areas, Ioannis Sapountzis, Ph.D., said in an interview at this year’s annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference in Chicago. The exec pegged the DDLPS patient population at around 3,000 worldwide.

The disease space hasn’t seen “any innovation” in 40 years, Sapountzis said. Currently, DDLPS is treated primarily with chemotherapies including doxorubicin, which is nicknamed “red devil chemo” because of its harsh side effects.

Brigimadlin is the product of 10 years of research and works by blocking the MDM2 oncoprotein from interacting with the cancer-surpressing p53 gene, helping patients fend off cancer cell growth, according to the company

Outside of DDLPS, the company aims to expand the drug's use to other sarcoma subtypes.

At the ASCO conference, BI presented results from an early study testing the drug in combination with radiotherapy in newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients. The data support “continued investigation” of brigimadlin in the disease, investigators noted.

As for zongertinib, the drug is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor being evaluated as a potential treatment for HER2-mutated non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). 

The company is looking to bring that therapy to market in the first half of 2025. Armed with an existing infrastructure for its marketed EGFR-mutated NSCLC med Giotrif, Boehringer is already busy building out its commercial resources, Sapountiz said.

Besides Giotrif, BI's other commercial cancer drug is Vargatef for certain lung cancer patients.

Oncology is “not the largest” therapeutic area in the Boehringer’s portfolio, Sapountzis acknowledged, but it’s one where the company has “been committed to really making a difference."  

Dealmaking focus

BI has long been active in the M&A space and is “always looking for innovation,” Sapountzis noted.

Just last month, the drugmaker shelled out 38.8 million euros ($42 million) to longtime partner OSE Immunotherapeutics in exchange for a preclinical anti-PD1/cytokine med and an expansion of a prior oncology research effort. 

So far this year, Boehringer has also signed a T-cell anti-cancer therapy partnership with 3T Biosciences and a collab with Suzhou Ribo Life Science and Ribocure Pharmaceuticals to use RNA to treat metabolic-associated steatohepatitis.

“We want to be truly collaborative in everything we do,” Sapountzis said. “We feel that together, we can achieve more; together, we can really advance treatments much better.”