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Lilly and Sigilon team up in $473m+ deal to ‘cure’ diabetes

Published on 05/04/18 at 08:34am

Eli Lilly and Sigilon Therapeutics have announced a partnership that looks to break new ground in the management of type 1 diabetes, by using stem cells to provide a long-term treatment solution.

The arrangement sees Lilly pay an initial $63 million upfront, commit to milestone payments of up to $410 million, as well as an undisclosed equity investment.

And what is it buying into? The treatment is experimental and still years away from human testing but could mark a complete shift in how patients with diabetes are treated.

Sigilon’s Afibromer technology sees patients being treated with induced pluripotent stem cells that are engineered to replicate insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells.

Previous issues with this approach have been focused on the strong immune response produced by the body of those infused. However, Sigilon’s approach aims to be able to deliver such cells without the need for immunosuppression and without the body fighting the new cells.

The aim is that the products could provide a long-term solution for those with type 1 diabetes, potentially leading to treatments that are able to sustain patients upwards of a year on a single treatment.

“At Lilly, we endeavor to change the frontiers of what's possible in medicine, both through our own scientific labs and in collaboration with other leading researchers,” said Daniel Skovronsky, Senior Vice President for Clinical and Product Development and Incoming President of Lilly Research Labs. “We are excited to be collaborating with, and investing in, Sigilon as they seek to develop encapsulated cell therapies, a potentially disruptive technology that could result in meaningful clinical advancements for chronic diseases such as type 1 diabetes.”

As part of the collaboration, Lilly now holds the worldwide licensing rights to Afribromer technology, whilst Sigilon is eligible, beyond the payments mentioned, to receive single to double digital tiered royalties on future product sales.

Paul Wotton, Chief Executive Officer of Sigilon Therapeutics, said, “At Sigilon, published studies have shown the ability to overcome the immune foreign body response with our proprietary Afibromer technology. This holds the promise for the creation of state-of-the-art allogeneic cell factories to be transplanted into patients, without the need for immune suppression. Our cell engineering and delivery system-based platform may allow us to program and control dynamic protein delivery for the long-term treatment of debilitating diseases.”

Ben Hargreaves

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