Waiting to inhale: Syntonix and Boehringer Ingelheim begin joint work on peptide-based drugs patients can inhale

A new collaboration between Syntonix Pharmaceuticals and Boehringer Ingelheim began joint work in mid-October to develop peptide-based drugs that patients can inhale rather than inject.

Lisa Espenschade
WALTHAM, Mass.—A new collaboration between Syntonix Pharmaceuticals and Boehringer Ingelheim began joint work in mid-October to develop peptide-based drugs that patients can inhale rather than inject.
 
Under the agreement, Syn-tonix will optimize Boehringer Ingelheim's therapeutic peptide candidates. The collaboration, says John Ripple, Syntonix's acting president, carries a potential value of up to $63 million, and "in signing the agreement we received an upfront fee from Boehringer Ingelheim, and they will also supply some R&D support through the term of the collaboration." Should Boehringer Ingelheim opt to develop or commercialize the peptide candidates, Syntonix would receive milestone and royalty payments on products covered by the agreement.
 
Ripple expects Syn-tonix to complete its research program within a year or two, at which time Boehringer Ingelheim "will have the opportunity to exercise the option and then further develop these peptides."
 
Boehringer Ingelheim, says spokesperson Ute Schmidt, turned to Syntonix because it believes Syntonix's technologies "have the potential to create significant improvement in the pulmonary delivery of peptides to treat serious human diseases." She cites the company's policies of "looking to the outside world to identify new product opportunities for development and marketing. As the recent agreement with Syntonix illustrates, we fully understand that excellent ideas are created by excellent minds in the academic and industrial environment outside Boehringer Ingelheim."
 
Boehringer Ingelheim did not release information on the peptides covered under the Syntonix collaboration, but Ripple notes that any drugs developed under the program would be considered new chemical entities requiring FDA approval and patent protection.
 
The collaboration is Syntonix's second signed in 2005. A March deal with Serono covers development of a therapeutic protein, an inhaled interferon-beta for treating multiple sclerosis. Ripple sees the agreements as industry validation of the value of Syntonix's drug development efforts and two of its technologies, SynFusion and Transceptor. "We expect to have at least one more corporate partnership before the end of 2005," says Ripple, "and we're currently in discussions with several companies about our emerging hemophilia franchise."
 
SynFusion, says Ripple, "links the Fc region of an antibody to any drug in a very novel manner," by fusing only a single "copy" of the drug, resulting in higher pulmonary absorption. Transceptor uses the Fc pathway to carry Fc-fusion drugs across the epithelial cell barrier into the lungs in a way that "doesn't require special breathing techniques for the patient," according to Ripple. Transceptor may also eventually enable oral delivery of peptide drugs.
 
Syntonix licensed its initial Transceptor intellectual property from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, says Ripple, but developed SynFusion in-house.
 
Syntonix is independently investigating hemophilia and anemia, for which it is developing an EPO-Fc fusion drug. The company also collaborates with Dyax Corp. "to co-develop and co-commercialize therapeutic antibodies to treat certain autoimmune diseases," though Ripple says no therapeutic indication has been targeted.

Lisa Espenschade

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