MD Anderson and Boehringer Ingelheim expand collaboration to accelerate development of KRAS and TRAILR2 compounds in lung cancer

Agreement builds on successful preclinical studies in gastrointestinal cancers through the joint Virtual Research and Development Center

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Boehringer Ingelheim today announced the extension and expansion of their joint Virtual Research and Development Center (VRDC) to explore new molecules from Boehringer Ingelheim’s KRAS (Kirsten rat sarcoma) and TRAILR2 (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand receptor 2) portfolios for the potential treatment of lung cancer, particularly non-small cell lung cancer.

The collaboration, launched in 2019, has successfully combined MD Anderson’s innovative clinical research infrastructure and the patient-driven drug development capabilities of the Therapeutics Discovery division with Boehringer Ingelheim’s pipeline of innovative cancer medicines and expertise in advancing breakthrough therapies. Under the new agreement, joint research will continue for five additional years.

“Our collaboration with MD Anderson strengthens our determination to find solutions for the most difficult-to-treat cancers, and this latest commitment marks an important step forward, especially in our holistic KRAS program,” said Norbert Kraut, Ph.D., head of Global Cancer Research at Boehringer Ingelheim. “We are delighted to extend our collaboration with MD Anderson. With our shared dedication to patients and like-minded approach to innovation, we have the potential to bring the medicines to lung and gastrointestinal cancer patients that they so much need.”

The flexible nature of the VRDC agreement allows the teams to expand their lung cancer indication programs targeting KRAS and TRAILR2, including Boehringer Ingelheim’s first-in-class SOS1::pan-KRAS inhibitor (BI 1701963), inhibitors of KRAS G12C (BI 1823911) and MEK (BI 3011441), as well as a novel undisclosed bi-specific TRAILR2 agonist.

The collaboration already has resulted in a number of joint publications, conference presentations (including at the 2021 AACR Annual Meeting) and clinical trial activities. Boehringer Ingelheim is pursuing a comprehensive mutant KRAS-directed effort with multiple programs expected to enter the VRDC with MD Anderson.

“We are proud to expand our work with Boehringer Ingelheim in a very exciting drug-development space – advancing novel targeted therapies against KRAS and TRAILR2,” said Timothy Heffernan, Ph.D., head of oncology research in Therapeutics Discovery at MD Anderson. “Our collaboration is built upon a strong working relationship and complementary expertise, highlighting how an academic center and a pharmaceutical company can strategically work together to advance innovative therapies for patients with cancer.”

MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division is anchored by an experienced team of drug development experts working to advance the next generation of cancer therapies. The Translational Research to Advance Therapeutics and Innovation in Oncology (TRACTION) platform, led by Heffernan, performs cutting-edge translational research to rapidly advance new therapies to the patients most likely to benefit.

KRAS is the most frequently mutated cancer-causing oncogene. One in seven of all human metastatic cancers expresses KRAS mutations, with mutation rates of more than 30 percent in lung adenocarcinomas, more than 40 percent in colorectal cancers and more than 90 percent in pancreatic cancers. No approved treatments for KRAS-driven cancers exist currently, further underscoring the need for continued investment in research and development. Tumor cell-selective activation of TRAILR2 can trigger cancer cell death in indications of high medical need, including lung and gastrointestinal malignancies.


MD Anderson has an institutional financial conflict of interest with Boehringer Ingelheim related to this research and has therefore implemented an Institutional Conflict of Interest Management and Monitoring Plan.