Lilly snaps up autoimmune drug in $400m biotech partnership

pharmafile | July 25, 2017 | News story | Manufacturing and Production, Research and Development, Sales and Marketing Eli Lilly, Nektar, aceutical, biotech, drugs, healthcare, phar, pharma 

Eli Lilly is to enter a partnership with Nektar Therapeutics to tap into the biotech’s new autoimmune disease therapy as part of a deal worth a potential $400 million. 

The new therapy, currently known as NKTR-358, targets the body’s interleukin (IL-2) receptor to trigger production of regulatory T cells, helping to normalise the immune system and stop it from attacking itself, potentially addressing the cause of various autoimmune conditions. The product is currently in early Phase 1 trials, with its first human dose administered in March this year.

“This wouldn’t be a drug that just treats the symptoms,” explained Jonathan Zalevsky, Nektar’s Senior Vice President of Biology and Preclinical Development. “It would be a drug that treats the underlying condition,” he said. With other autoimmune drugs, “a lot of the targets have been recycled and recirculated. It’s only so far that continuing to block mechanisms of immune regulation will take you.”

The deal breaks down to a payment of $150 million upfront and $250 million in developmental and regulatory milestone payments. As part of the partnership, both companies will co-develop NKTR-358 with Nektar seeing it through Phase 1 and Lilly shouldering 75% of the development costs. Lilly will handle global commercialisation and associated costs, while Nektar will have an opportunity to take part in Phase 3 development on an indication-by-indication basis.

“We are very pleased to enter into this collaboration with Lilly as they have strong expertise in immunology and a successful track record in bringing novel therapies to market,” said Howard W Robin, Nektar’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Importantly, this agreement enables the broad development of NKTR-358 in multiple autoimmune conditions in order to achieve its full potential as a first-in-class resolution therapeutic.”

Thomas F Bumol, Senior Vice President of Biotechnology and Immunology Research at Lilly, added: “We look forward to working with Nektar to study this novel approach to treating a number of autoimmune conditions. NKTR-358 is an exciting addition to our immunology portfolio and reinforces Lilly’s commitment to sustain a flow of innovative medicines in our pipeline.”

Matt Fellows

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