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Lilly steps up cancer immunotherapy research

Agrees development deal with Immunocore
Eli Lilly HQ

Lilly has become the latest major pharma company to invest in the development of cancer immunotherapies via a deal with biotech Immunocore.

The two companies will work on developing of cancer therapies that direct a patient's T cells to target cancerous cells, effectively using the body's own immune system to fight the disease.

It is one of several deals that Immunocore has made with pharma companies in the past couple of years as immuno-oncology becomes an increasingly viable prospect for the industry.

Other companies to agree deals with Immunocore include GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and AstraZeneca, all of which involve Immunocore's Immune Mobilising Monoclonal T-Cell Receptor against Cancer (ImmTAC).

Lilly now joins the raft of companies looking to catch up on those leading the field: Merck & Co, which recently had its anti-PD1 antibody pembrolizumab accepted for review in Europe, and Bristol-Myers Squibb and Ono, which this month won approval for their own anti-PD1 effort Opdivo (nivolumab) in Japan.

Under the terms of the deal Lilly will pay Immunocore an upfront fee of $15m per programme for the discovery of novel ImmTACs against cancer targets selected by both companies.

If Lilly then chooses to develop one of these programmes further, Immunocore will receive an opt-in fee of $10m and will have an option to continue co-development with Lilly on a cost/profit-sharing basis. If Immunocore does not exercise this option, it will still be entitled to potential payments depending on the success of the drug candidate.

Dr Jan Lundberg, president of Lilly Research Laboratories, commented on the company's confidence in cancer immunotherapies.

"The major goal and challenge of cancer immunotherapy is to direct the immune system to recognise and destroy cancer,” he said. “We believe Immunocore's ImmTAC platform has the potential to do just that.”

17th July 2014

From: Research



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