Lilly Buys Back Early Phase Oncology Kinase in $110m AurKa Deal

Eli Lilly adds AK-01 – an Aurora kinase A inhibitor it originally discovered – to its early-stage pipeline. The acquisition comes days after Lilly bought Armo BioSciences for US$1.6 billion.

In 2016, biopharma giant Eli Lilly sold AK-01 to venture capital firm TVM Capital Life Science, which went on to establish AurKa Pharma. This week, the firm has announced it is buying it back through the acquisition of AurKa.

The is an Aurora kinase A inhibitor being tested in multiple types of solid tumors.

“The compound we acquired as part of the AurKa transaction is still in Phase 1 clinical trials,” Lilly spokesperson Mark Taylor told BioProcess Insider.

“Any decisions regarding commercial manufacturing will not be made until the compound advances further in our pipeline.”

Lilly will pay $110 million (€92 million) upfront for AurKa, but could be eligible to pay a further $465 million in milestone payments and royalties, depending on the success of AK-01.

Armo BioSciences

The news comes less than a week after Lilly acquired Indianapolis-headquartered firm Armo BioSciences for $1.6 billion.

Armo’s lead candidate is pegilodecakin, a PEGylated IL-10 anti-inflammatory cytokine being studied in a Phase 3 clinical trial for pancreatic cancer along.

BriaCell Therapeutics, a biopharma firm that itself uses cytokine simulation to boost immune response to cancer, told us the acquisition is a boost for such therapies.

“We applaud Eli Lilly for their vision in making a significant investment in this area by acquiring Armo Bio and their lead asset, pegilodecakin, a cytokine known to stimulate immune responses to certain cancers,” said CEO Bill Williams.

“These therapies hold tremendous promise for patients, providing effective treatments with a much better safety profile than chemotherapies.”

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