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Lilly chalks up another acquisition with AurKa for $575m

Published on 14/05/18 at 04:53pm

Swiftly following up its $1.6 billion splash to pick up Armo BioSciences last week, Eli Lilly has agreed to acquire AurKa Pharma in an agreement with a total potential value of $575 million, representing yet another step in the company’s journey to boost its oncology portfolio.

The deal means Lilly will take ownership of AurKa’s lead candidate AK-01, an aurora kinase A inhibitor which it had originally discovered. The compound was sold in 2016 to TVM Capital Life Science, who in turn established AurKa.

Lilly plans to further develop the reclaimed candidate in solid tumours, in which it has shown promise in Phase 1 studies. Aurora kinases, of A, B and C varieties, are theorised as a key element in cellular division and genomic stability, and are frequently overexpressed in cancerous tumours.

As part of this new partnership, Lilly will pay an upfront payment of $110 million in exchange for all of AurKa’s shares, while a further $465 million will be up for grabs in regulatory and sales milestones, subject to AK-01’s approval in the US and beyond.

“Lilly Oncology is focused on the development of innovative cancer therapies that can make a meaningful difference for patients,” remarked Dr Levi Garraway, Senior Vice President, Global Development and Medical Affairs at Lilly Oncology. “The acquisition of AurKa Pharma expands our pipeline with a promising oncology compound targeting a distinct cell cycle pathway. The work done by AurKa will allow Lilly to leverage emerging data about cancers in which this molecule might be effective, and determine if it can be beneficial to people living with various forms of cancer.”

Luc Marengere, Managing Partner at TVM Capital Life Science, also commented: “Through the unique healthcare venture capital model pioneered by TVM Capital Life Science, companies such as AurKa have been established to more quickly and efficiently bring promising compounds to clinical proof-of-concept. We are pleased that the scientific advances made by AurKa could contribute to the development of AK-01 and hopefully help deliver a potential new medicine for cancer patients.”

Matt Fellows

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