Boehringer Ingelheim has formed a global alliance with US-based biopharmaceutical firm Epizyme for the research, development and commercialisation of new potential cancer treatments.

The partners will focus on small molecule inhibitors for two previously unaddressed epigenetic targets, which are enzymes within the helicase and histone acetyltransferase (HAT) families.

These epigenetic enzymes, when dysregulated, are known to result in development of cancers that do not have any existing therapeutics options.

Boehringer Ingelheim Discovery Research senior corporate vice-president Clive Wood said: “We are excited to launch this partnership with Epizyme and to work together with them to advance epigenetic inhibitors that have the potential to transform the lives of patients and help win the fight against difficult-to-treat cancers.”

Boehringer and Epizyme will target solid tumour patients having defined mutations, sub-populations that currently lack precision medicine therapies.

As part of the deal, the companies will work together on the research and development of a helicase programme, and will share responsibilities for US commercialisation.

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“We are excited to launch this partnership with Epizyme and to work together with them to advance epigenetic inhibitors that have the potential to transform the lives of patients.”

Meanwhile, Boehringer will carry out ex-US commercialisation.

The companies will also share research responsibilities for the HAT programme, and Boehringer will assume responsibility for global development and commercialisation.

Epizyme president and CEO Robert Bazemores said: “By combining our innovative target identification and research capabilities with Boehringer Ingelheim’s world-class drug development and commercialization expertise, we are aiming to realize the full potential of these targets and our platform, while continuing to focus on executing development of our lead program in multiple ongoing and planned clinical trials.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Boehringer will pay $15m upfront to Epizyme, along with additional $5m in research funding next year. Epizyme may also obtain more than $280m in additional research, development, regulatory and commercial milestones.

For the helicase programme, Epizyme will sponsor a part of the global development costs, retain a share of US profits and receive tiered royalties on ex-US sales.

In case of the HAT programme, Epizyme is eligible to get tiered royalties on worldwide.