Boehringer Ingelheim re-enters ADC space with $1.4bn NBE buy

Having already dabbled in the antibody-drug conjugate (ADC), Boehringer Ingelheim has gone full in, acquiring NBE-Therapeutics for €1.18 billion ($1.4 billion).

The deal sees German biopharma firm Boehringer Ingelheim agree to buy private Swiss biotech NBE-Therapeutics, adding an ADC technology platform and a lead compound NBE-002 in Phase I clinical studies for triple negative breast cancer and other solid tumors.

When the deal closes – expected in Q1 2021 – “NBE Therapeutics with its team of highly qualified scientists will continue to operate from Basel [Switzerland] as a new site within the Boehringer Ingelheim R&D network,” Boehringer spokesman Reinhard Malin told this publication.

Image: By Bioconjugator – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

“The clinical-stage asset NBE-002 is currently being produced at a network of external CDMOs that have strong expertise in the field of ADC production. No decision has been made yet with respect to the future supply chain for late stage development.”

The acquisition throws Boehringer into the current ADC space, a sector bolstered by five approvals over the past two years, more than doubling the number of products on the market.

But Boehringer has dabbled in the sector before, Malin said.

“Boehringer Ingelheim has followed the ADC space for a long time already and made investments through its strategic venture fund BIVF.” The BIVF invested in NBE itself, back in 2013.

“With the cutting-edge technology developed by NBE Therapeutics we believe this is an excellent opportunity to enter the space and combine the platform with our strengths in tumor antigen discovery that Boehringer Ingelheim has built up in the past years.”

He added: “Boehringer Ingelheim was previously active in the field with a first-generation ADC technology. Now with the acquisition of NBE Therapeutics we have re-entered the space with an innovative, next generation technology which expands our activities in tumor cell targeting approaches.”

In the early 2000s, Boehringer Ingelheim filed several patents (here and here, for example) for antibody-conjugate technologies. However, commercialized ADCs did not result.

The acquisition comes seven months after Boehringer Ingelheim acquired Northern Biologics, adding a preclinical pipeline of cancer targeting antibodies.