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Lilly cuts deal with UK’s Sitryx for autoimmune disease drugs

The five-year deal includes Sitryx’ two lead projects

Eli Lilly

Sitryx has signed its first big licensing deal with a big pharma company, attracting a $880m-plus partnership with Eli Lilly focusing on immuno-inflammation just 18 months after making its debut.

The Oxford, UK start-up is getting $50m in an upfront payment and a $10m equity investment from Lilly – plus promises to pay development milestones of $820m – in return for rights to up to four preclinical targets with potential in autoimmune diseases.

The five-year deal includes Sitryx’ two lead projects, although there’s little information available yet on the diseases targeted by those programmes as they are still in the discovery phase.

Sitryx was formed in 2018 with a focus on immunometabolism – studying the role of metabolic pathways in immune cell function – and raised $30m in a first-round financing backed by GlaxoSmithKline.

At the time the biotech said it would focus on potential therapies for cancer and autoimmune conditions, with its operations supported by GSK’s drug discovery capabilities.

The biotech says correcting immune cell function or inhibiting tumour cell growth through immunometabolic therapies have the potential to be “key, complementary and highly differentiated approaches to treating disease”.

Lilly is the first drugmaker to sign an exclusive licensing agreement with Sitryx, with the deal also including undisclosed commercial milestones if any drug candidates reach the market, as well as royalties on sales.

The partnership complements Lilly’s existing focus on immuno-inflammatory diseases, led by drugs such as psoriasis therapy Taltz (ixekizumab), which has just had its indications extended to include paediatric patients, and rheumatoid arthritis drug Olumiant (baricitinib).

Last year, Lilly announced a $650m partnership with US biotech ImmuNext in the autoimmune disease area, which came just a few months after it launched a $620m partnership with Aduro Biotech in autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.

The UK company’s chief executive Neil Weir said the alliance is “transformational... [and] ...further validates the strength of our scientific expertise”.

Sitryx has been set up by six leading immunometabolism scientists from Europe and the US, including Paul Peter Tak, former chief immunology officer at GSK, who is now professor of medicine at Amsterdam University Medical Centre.

Others include Luke O’Neill of Trinity College Dublin, Jonathan Powell of Johns Hopkins University, Vanderbilt Center for Immunobiology’s Jeff Rathmell, Michael Rosenblum of UCSF School of Medicine and Houman Ashrafian, a partner at SV Health Investors, which co-led the Series A with Sofinnova Partners.

Article by
Phil Taylor

1st April 2020

From: Research

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