Eli Lilly Signs $473-Million Deal for Encapsulated Cell Therapies for Treating Diabetes

Eli Lilly and Company and Sigilon Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based cell-therapy company, have formed a global collaboration worth up to $473 million to develop encapsulated cell therapies for the potential treatment of Type 1 diabetes.

Sigilon is a privately held biopharmaceutical company that is focused on developing improved treatments for chronic diseases by using a novel type of therapeutic: implanted cells shielded by proprietary biomaterials from immune attack and the foreign body response (fibrosis). Its treatments use its proprietary Afibromer technology (afibrotic polymers that do not trigger a fibrotic response) to produce encapsulated cell therapeutics that do not require immunosuppression.

Encapsulated cell therapy is an emerging area of biopharmaceutical research that uses cells to treat serious diseases without the need for immunosuppression, according to information from the companies. This approach holds promise to address chronic conditions, such as Type 1 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, pancreatic beta cells are destroyed by the immune system, leading to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and long-term complications if glucose levels are not managed effectively.

In the Lilly-Sigilon collaboration, Sigilon will create proprietary products comprised of induced pluripotent stem cells, a type of stem cell derived from adult cells, engineered into differentiated insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells and encapsulated using Sigilon’s Afibromer technology. The goal of these products will be to restore insulin production over sustained periods without triggering an immune reaction.

Under the terms of the agreement, Lilly will receive an exclusive worldwide license to Sigilon’s Afibromer technology for islet-cell encapsulation. Sigilon will receive an upfront payment of $63 million, and Lilly will make an undisclosed equity investment in Sigilon. Sigilon is also eligible to receive up to $410 million in development and commercialization milestones as well as single- to double-digit tiered royalties on future product sales should the collaboration yield a commercially successful product. Sigilon will be responsible for all development activities and costs related to the collaboration until submission of an investigational new drug application (IND). After an IND is submitted, Lilly will be responsible for all clinical development and commercialization activities and costs related to the collaboration.

Sigilon was founded and created by Flagship Pioneering, a life-science innovation firm, which launched the company in 2017 with $23.5 million in capital. Research leading to the discovery of Afibromer biomaterials was funded by grants from JDRF International, a global organization funding Type 1 diabetes research, and the Leona M. Helmsley and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and conducted under the leadership of Daniel Anderson, PhD, and Robert Langer, ScD, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Source: Eli Lilly and Company

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