Lilly To Acquire Oncology Company AurKa Pharma for up to $575 Million

Eli Lilly and Company has agreed to acquire AurKa Pharma, a Montreal, Quebec-based special-purpose company created to develop an oncology drug that it previously acquired from Lilly, in a deal worth up to $575 million. AurKa Pharma, which is funded by the investment firm, TVM Capital Life Science, was created to develop one compound to proof-of-concept, an oncology compound, AK-01, a kinase Aurora inhibitor, which was originally discovered at Lilly.

Lilly says the compound is a potential first-in-class drug now in Phase I clinical trials in multiple types of solid tumors. Aurora kinases, consisting of Aurora A, Aurora B, and Aurora C, are key mitotic regulators required for genome stability and are frequently overexpressed in cancerous tumors, according to information from Lilly. AurKa Pharma’s asset, AK-01, has been shown to be highly selective for Aurora A, with potential clinical benefit observed in Phase I studies. Aurora kinases are believed to play a role in cellular division by controlling chromosomal segregation. Defects in segregation can cause genetic instability, a condition associated with the formation of tumors, according to information from Lilly. Future studies of AK-01 will seek to determine if its selectivity profile can improve efficacy while limiting toxicity risks to a manageable level.

Following a review of its clinical pipeline priorities in 2016, Lilly sold AK-01 to TVM Capital Life Science, which then established AurKa as part of the TVM Life Science Ventures VII fund. The fund is an investment model that seeks to develop early-stage pharmaceutical assets.

Under the agreement, Lilly will acquire all shares of AurKa Pharma. In return, AurKa Pharma shareholders will receive an upfront payment of $110 million. AurKa Pharma shareholders are also eligible to receive up to $465 million in regulatory and sales milestones should AK-01 gain approval in the US and other markets and achieve certain sales levels. This transaction is subject to customary closing conditions.

This deal marks Lilly’s second recent acquisition. Earlier in May 2018, Lilly agreed to acquired ARMO BioSciences, a Redwood City, California-based pharmaceutical company focused on immuno-oncology, for approximately $1.6 billion, in an all-cash transaction. Lilly says the acquisition will bolster its immuno-oncology program through the addition of ARMO’s lead product candidate, pegilodecakin, a PEGylated IL-10. Pegilodecakin is currently being studied in a Phase III clinical trial in pancreatic cancer as well as in earlier phase trials in lung and renal cell cancer, melanoma, and other solid tumor types.

Source: Eli Lilly and Company

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