Canada-based Phenomic AI has landed two strategic collaborations this week with Boehringer Ingelheim and Astellas-owned cell therapy biotech Xyphos Biosciences to develop cancer therapies. 

Phenomic and Boehringer have teamed up on a target identification collaboration, announced on 29 November. Under the deal, Phenomic will receive an upfront payment of $9m and may be entitled to up to $500m in research funding and milestones.  

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The Canadian company hasn’t disclosed the financial terms of the deal with Astellas, but the companies aim to develop cell therapies with an antibody directed at a novel target of the tumour stroma, utilising Phenomic’s scTx platform. The company singled out colorectal and pancreatic cancers as being stroma-rich, which would be amenable to being targeted by Phenomic’s platform.  

These developments mark the first deals announced by Phenomic in three years since the company launched in 2020 with $6m in seed funding. Phenomic’s scTx is a single-cell RNA computing platform that allows researchers to explore cell type and target expression profiles in high levels of detail.  

In the announcement accompanying the collaboration with Astellas, Phenomic CEO Girish Aakalu PhD said: “scTx’s massive database and machine learning engine provides insights into the tumour stroma, a major barrier to cancer therapies, at a resolution not previously possible and ultimately enables Phenomic to develop therapies for the hardest to treat tumours.” 

According to GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center, Phenomic is leading a preclinical antibody programme to treat solid tumours.  

Last month, Astellas took over biopharmaceutical company Propella Therapeutics in a $175m deal that saw Astellas acquire Propella’s lead product candidate, PRL-02, for treating prostate cancer. The product candidate, an androgen biosynthesis inhibitor, is currently being evaluated in a Phase I clinical trial and will enter Phase IIa trials in 2024. 

Pharma giant Boehringer also made acquisitions last month, taking over Swiss biotech T3 Pharmaceuticals in a deal up to $509m, using T3 Pharma’s platform that uses bacteria to deliver bioactive proteins to the tumour microenvironment. Boehringer detailed plans to combine complementary immuno-oncology platforms to boost remission rates after the deal.