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Lilly dumps Hanmi’s rheumatoid arthritis med

Published on 20/02/18 at 08:38am

Eli Lilly and Hanmi signed an exclusive licensing and collaboration agreement to develop the Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor, HM71224, for the treatment of various autoimmune and other diseases in 2015.

The deal was worth a potential $690 million in total but that hasn’t stopped Lilly showing every sign of ducking out of the deal early.

The announcement that Lilly had chosen to discontinue Phase 2 trials was revealed in a regulatory filing. According to Korea BioMedical Review, the company announced: “Our partner firm Lilly has decided to discontinue the phase-2 trials of selective BTK inhibitor (LY3337641/HM71224) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis because interim results showed that the study could fail to demonstrate its target effectiveness […] Instead, we are in talks to continue developing the drug for other indications. There are no expense obligations such as a chance in the contract or a return of the contract fee”.

The initial press release on the announcement of the deal between the two companies suggested that the drug candidate would be tested in various treatments, such as lupus, lupus nephritis, Sjögren's syndrome, and other related conditions.

Lilly did have a strong deal in place to commercialise the drug, giving Hanmi only the rights to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, with rights to all indications of the molecule – whether Lilly will be interested in pursuing the idea after the failed Phase 2 trial, remains to be seen.

Lilly may be willing to write off the $50 million upfront costs it stumped up to agree the deal, given that its own treatment, Olumiant, has performed well in trials and has been approved across Europe, even passing through NICE’s stringent vetting process.

Lilly is currently awaiting a decision from the FDA on whether the treatment will be approved for the US market, after the agency reversed its previous decision requiring more data.

Hanmi’s investors did not take kindly to the news, diving by close to 9%.

Ben Hargreaves

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