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Lycera Corp., Merck to Partner on Autoimmune Drugs

Beakers and molecule model (USTR.gov)

(USTR.gov)

Lycera Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company in Plymouth, Michigan, says it has a collaboration agreement with the global drug maker company Merck to develop drug candidates that treat major autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis. Under the agreement, Lycera can receive up to $307 million, as well as later royalty and milestone payments.

Lycera will collaborate with a Merck affiliate on discovery and preclinical development of drug candidates targeting the retinoic acid related orphan receptor, an inhibitor of T-helper 17 (Th17) cells, which are mediators of inflammation. Mice with T cells deficient in this receptor have attenuated disease and lack tissue-infiltrating Th17 cells. Thus, the retinoic acid related orphan receptor is a key regulator of immune homeostasis and potential therapeutic target for immune diseases.

Merck will be responsible for clinical development and have worldwide marketing and commercialization rights to any resulting products, with Lycera sharing in U.S. profits from products resulting from the collaboration. Lycera will receive $12 million in immediate cash payments, and is eligible to receive up to $295 million in research, development, and regulatory milestone payments. Lycera is also entitled to tiered royalty payments and milestones on global sales from products developed as a result of the collaboration.

An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disorders, and approximately 50 million Americans, or one in five people, suffer from autoimmune diseases.

Lycera Corporation was formed in 2006 by Gary Glick, the company’s current president, based on his research as a faculty member in biochemistry at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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