- Aduro Biotech and Eli Lilly plan to work together to develop immunology treatments, announcing a deal Tuesday in which Lilly will license molecules from Aduro that target an immune pathway known as the intracellular stimulator of interferon genes, or STING.
- Per the deal, Aduro will receive $12 million upfront and can earn as much as $620 million more through contingent milestone payments. The biotech company will get research funding and also has an option to co-found clinical development in return for higher royalties.
- Lilly, which will be responsible for marketing any products that come out of the collaboration, said the agreement won't affect its 2018 non-GAAP guidance. Aduro's stock opened up about 17% Wednesday.
The deal gives a needed boost to Aduro, which has seen its shares tumble since Johnson & Johnson ended three licensing agreements with the biotech in October. J&J had worked with Aduro since 2014 on the cancer-fighting therapies ADU-214 and ADU-741 and its decision to exit the partnership sunk the possibility for Aduro to earn hundreds of millions in milestone payments.
Lilly touted Aduro's work on cGAS-STING pathway inhibitors, which are designed to reduce the expression of interferons that spur immune response. That's key for patients with autoimmune diseases, whose immune systems kick into dangerous overdrive and attack the body's own tissues.
Aduro also has a program designed to activate the STING receptor in immune cells, potentially fighting tumors. Called ADU-S100, the product is currently in Phase 1 trials.
Other companies are investigating STING in cancer as well, with mixed results. A Phase 1 study of Merck's MK-1454, for example, led to zero responses among 20 patients who received it as a monotherapy. Among 25 patients who got it in addition to the immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab), only six experienced a partial response.
A recent Cancer Research Institute analysis found a total of 18 compounds targeting the STING pathway for use in treating cancer.