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Lilly and ImmuNext deal focused on autoimmune diseases

Aiming for targets upstream of existing checkpoint regulators

ImmuNext

Eli Lilly and ImmuNext have signed a global licensing and research collaboration worth up to $600m to develop a novel preclinical target that could lead to potential new medicines for autoimmune diseases.

The deal centres on a novel antibody which regulates immune cell metabolism. The US biotech firm, based in Lebanon, New Hampshire says target validation studies have revealed its target operates independently and upstream of known immune checkpoint regulators.

This could open up an opportunity to treat hard-to-treat conditions with currently limited therapeutic options.

Immunext already has a number of licensing deals with big pharma, but the Lilly deal is the first in this novel area of immunology.

Jay Rothstein

ImmuNext's Jay Rothstein

"Immunology is an important area of research for Lilly, and we seek novel targets that could develop into new medicines for patients suffering with autoimmune diseases," said Ajay Nirula, vice president of immunology at Lilly. "Regulating the metabolism of immune cells is a promising approach to treating these diseases, and we look forward to working with ImmuNext to advance their immunometabolism target."

Jay Rothstein, chief scientific officer at ImmuNext, states that "We are pleased to work with Lilly to bring forward a first-in-pathway antibody that specifically targets the metabolism of lymphocytes to reprogramme rather than suppress the immune system."

The deal sees ImmuNext receive an upfront payment of $40m, and is eligible to receive up to around $565m in development and commercialisation milestones, as well as tiered royalties ranging from the mid-single to low-double digits on product sales.

In return, ImmuNext will grant Lilly a worldwide licence to develop and commercialise the novel immunometabolism target. In addition, Lilly and ImmuNext will establish a three year research collaboration to support the target's development.

The company also has partnerships with Janssen, Roche and Sanofi on novel immunomodulators. ImmuNext’s most advanced compound is in clinical development and is named VISTA, (a V-domain Ig suppressor of T cell activation (VISTA), a novel checkpoint regulator.

The move bolsters Lilly's interest in immunology, which is increasingly seen as the key to advancing treatment against many diseases. In recent months the US pharma company acquired immuno-oncology company Loxo and its recently approved Vitrakvi for $8bn and paid $1.6bn for another immuno-oncology company, Armo.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

27th March 2019

From: Research

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