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Lilly, Biopharm Partner on Alzheimer’s Treatment in $2B Deal

Neurons illustration

Neurons (Laura Struzyna, University of Pennsylvania, NIH.gov)

12 Dec. 2018. Eli Lilly and Co. is licensing a a treatment candidate for Alzheimer’s disease from biopharmaceutical company AC Immune that aims to block accumulation of tau proteins in the brain. The agreement with drug maker Eli Lilly in Indianapolis could bring AC Immune in Lausanne, Switzerland as much as $2 billion if all aspects of the deal are fulfilled.

AC Immune develops diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition, the most common form of dementia affecting growing numbers of older people worldwide. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have deposits of abnormal substances in spaces between brain cells, known as amyloid-beta proteins, as well as misfolded tangles of proteins inside brain cells known as tau. The company cites data showing 46.8 million people worldwide with dementia, a number expected to grow to 131.5 million by 2050.

AC Immune’s technologies focus on the misfolding of proteins, particularly tau that builds up inside of neurons in the brain, and spreads between cells, and amyloid-beta proteins that accumulate as plaques outside of neurons. The company’s vaccines and treatments are designed to arrest these accumulations before they cause irreversible damage to neurons. One of AC Immune’s technologies, called morphomers, produces small molecule therapies that target misfolded and accumulated tau proteins. The company says proof-of-concept tests show its morphomers reduce tau accumulations and associated inflammation in neurons.

The deal gives Lilly a global license to develop AC Immune’s treatment candidate code-named ACI-3024 as an Alzheimer’s disease therapy that the company says in preclinical research blocks tau accumulations. AC Immune will continue development of ACI-3024 through early-stage clinical trials, after which Lilly will be responsible for further clinical studies, and commercialization worldwide. AC Immune will retain some rights to ACI-3024 for rare diseases and to co-develop therapies for disorders other than Alzheimer’s disease.

In exchange, Lilly is paying AC Immune an initial fee of 80 million Swiss francs ($US 86.4 million), with Lilly providing a $50 million loan, convertible into an equity stake in AC Immune. In addition, AC Immune is eligible for near-term development milestone payments of 60 million Swiss francs ($64.8 million), and longer-term development, regulatory, and commercial milestones of 1.7 billion Swiss francs ($1.8 billion).

Andrea Pfeifer, founder and CEO of AC Immune says in a joint statement that the “partnership with Lilly is transformational for the future of AC Immune.” She adds, “Lilly’s substantial experience in neurology, and particularly in Alzheimer’s disease, is a major validation of our small molecule platform for CNS (central nervous system) therapeutics.” Lilly has several therapies in development for neurodegenerative disorders, including 5 treatments in clinical trial for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

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