- Eli Lilly & Co. has gained rights to a handful of drugs representing a "potential new class of treatments" for diabetes patients.
- The molecules, called dual amylin calcitonin receptor agonists, or DACRAs, belong to KeyBioscience, a subsidiary of Nordic Bioscience. The DACRA platform includes KBP-042, which is in Phase 2 testing, as well as other assets in development from pre-clinical stages to Phase 1.
- KeyBioscience is getting $55 million upfront from Lilly, as well as potential milestones and tiered royalties, in exchange for worldwide development and commercialization rights to the drugs. Both companies declined to comment on the values of those latter two payments.
As the diabetes space gets hammered with intense competition and a tough pricing environment, Eli Lilly has avoided the brunt of it through a variety of diabetes offerings, as well as a willingness to work closely with payers.
The company's more recently approved offerings, such as Trulicity (dulaglutide) and Jardiance (empagliflozin), helped it beat analysts' revenue estimates in the fourth quarter. In particular, the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP1) agonist Trulicity, which brought in $926 million last year, a more than 270% increase from 2015.
Nevertheless, revenues from Lilly's endocrinology business, which encompasses diabetes medications, still fell about 3% year-over-year in 2016. Continued innovation, therefore, could aid in reversing the tides.
DACRA therapies work by promoting the secretion of amylin, a protein that helps regulate blood sugar levels, and calcitonin, a hormone that contributes to calcium homeostasis in the body. Lilly's interest in these types of molecules comes after animal testing showed their ability to reduce weight and increase glucose infusion rates.
"The science is very exciting and could advance the treatment of diabetes," a Lilly spokesman said in an email to BioPharma Dive. "This is an entirely new mechanism with the potential to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce weight and improve blood glucose control. We look forward to learning more."
"We are convinced that this potential insulin sensitizer with a weight reduction and glucose control will help a lot of patients, and Lilly is a perfect partner for that," said a spokesperson for KeyBioscience.
Lilly hasn't been the most active dealmaker thus far in 2017. It's most notable acquisition — that of CoLucid for close to $1 billion — was centered on beefing up the big pharma's pain portfolio, and overall the drugmaker has seemed most focused on becoming a stronger player in the neuroscience space. A spokesperson, however, said the company is looking at drugs and technologies across its core therapeutic areas, diabetes included, and is "pursuing collaborations at ever-earlier stages to better identify opportunities that may be beneficial to patients."
Meanwhile, KeyBioscience's parent has shown interest in working with larger players this year as well. Nordic inked a deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb earlier this year for developing biomarkers for fibrotic diseases such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).