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Lilly and BioNTech partner on cancer immunotherapy

Lilly gets on board with the hottest research ticket in town


Lilly has signed a multi-million dollar research pact with BioNTech to discover and market cancer immunotherapies. 

Cancer immunotherapy is seen at the future of oncology drug development as new technologies help teach the body to kill cancers cells. 

There are already several oncologic-immunology drugs on the market, including Bristol-Myers Squibb's Yervoy (ipilimumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab), as well as Dendreon's Provenge for prostate cancer and Merck & Co.'s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for melanoma. 

There are also a number of big pharma firms – such as Roche and AstraZeneca – currently developing new cancer therapies in this area, with many others now scrambling to get on board with this new research area, which is expected to be worth around $30bn in the next 10 years. 

With this latest deal Lilly says the two firms will collaborate to identify and validate novel tumour targets and their corresponding T cell receptors (TCRs) in one or more types of cancer. 

These tumour targets and TCRs may then be engineered and developed into potent and selective cancer therapies. 

Under the terms of the agreement, BioNTech will receive a $30m signing fee and for each potential medicine, BioNTech could receive more than $300m in development, regulatory and commercial milestones. 

If successfully commercialised, BioNTech would also be eligible for tiered royalty payments up to double-digits. 

In addition, subject to the terms of the agreement, Lilly will make a $30 million equity investment in BioNTech's subsidiary, Cell & Gene Therapieswhich specializes in the research and development of TCR and chimeric antigen receptor immunotherapeutics. 

Further financial terms were not disclosed.  

Greg Plowman, VP of Lilly oncology research, said: “In the past few years, we've seen some amazing breakthroughs in immuno-oncology; however, we believe these are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Lilly's partnership with BioNTech represents the next wave of cancer immunotherapy and is focused on the identification of functional T cell receptors that can be used to redirect a patient's natural immune system to fight cancer.”  

Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, added: “We are very pleased to collaborate with a leading oncology company such as Lilly. Lilly's expertise and track record make it an ideal collaborator for both companies to leverage the full power of BioNTech's functional T cell receptor technologies to develop novel cancer therapies that harness the immune system

“This alliance is in line with our strategy to collaborate with companies that have a similar fascination, drive and commitment in developing and commercializing truly innovative and disruptive immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer.” 

Lilly's main cancer product is the lung cancer chemotherapy treatment Alimta (pemetrexed), which made $2.8bn in sales last year, a growth of 3%. 

Article by
Ben Adams

12th May 2015

From: Research



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