- Eli Lilly will pay $20 million to acquire from Japan's Asahi Kahei Pharma the rights to an experimental drug in early-stage testing for chronic pain, the Indianapolis-based drugmaker announced Thursday.
- Per deal terms, Asahi Kahei could receive up to $210 million more from Lilly should the drug successfully advance through development, and another $180 million if certain sales milestones are hit following regulatory approvals.
- While a comparatively smaller bet for Lilly, the deal further expands the drugmaker's research pipeline of treatments for pain. Lilly current sells Emgality and Reyvow, treatments for different types of migraine.
Best know for diabetes drugs and Alzheimer's research, Lilly is one of just a handful of large pharmaceutical companies to bet heavily on developing new, non-opioid medicines for pain.
Along with partner Pfizer, Lilly has spent more than a decade working to develop tanezumab, one of a class of drugs that block a peptide called nerve growth factor, or NGF. Testing of all such treatments was put on hold for years by the Food and Drug Administration due to concerns over their side effects.
Lilly and Pfizer kept going after taking steps to mitigate the safety concerns, and in March of last year announced the FDA had accepted an application for tanezumab's approval for chronic pain due to osteoarthritis. The agency originally set a decision date of December 2020 for the drug, but pushed its deadline back and now plans to call an advisory panel meeting for the review in March.
Regeneron and Teva Pharmaceutical are working on a similar, competing drug and plan to report safety data this year that they'll use to make a decision on the program's path forward.
In addition to tanezumab, Lilly has made migraine a particular focus and now markets Emgality for migraine prevention and Reyvow for acute migraine treatment. Still in testing, meanwhile, are an antibody and three small molecule drugs for pain.
The Asahi Kahei deal pads that pipeline further, adding a drug that blocks a receptor linked to neuroinflammation. Called AK1780, Asahi's medicine has completed Phase 1 tests as well as multiple ascending dose and clinical pharmacology studies, Lilly said.
Through the deal, Lilly will become responsible for global development and regulatory discussions, while Asahi Kahei will retain rights to promote the drug in Japan and China should it be successfully developed.