Eli Lilly partners with AC Immune to develop tau aggregation inhibitors for Alzheimer's disease

Eli Lilly entered an agreement with AC Immune potentially worth over 1.8 billion Swiss francs ($1.8 billion) to develop tau aggregation inhibitor small molecules for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, the companies said Wednesday. Mark Mintun, vice president of neurodegeneration and pain research at Eli Lilly, noted that the deal "represents another opportunity to hopefully make progress against this devastating disease."

In June, Eli Lilly and partner AstraZeneca halted Phase III studies of the BACE inhibitor lanabecestat for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease as the trial were not likely to meet their primary endpoints. A late-stage study of Eli Lilly's beta amyloid targeting drug solanezumab previously failed to hit its main goal in people with mild dementia due to Alzheimer's disease.

Under the new agreement, the drugmakers will focus primarily on AC Immune's lead molecule ACI-3024, which has demonstrated tau aggregation inhibition in preclinical models. The collaboration will combine AC Immune's Morphomer platform technology with Eli Lilly's clinical development and commercial capabilities in central nervous system disorders.

The companies noted that AC Immune will conduct Phase I development of the tau aggregation inhibitors, with Eli Lilly funding and conducting further clinical development. Eli Lilly will receive global marketing rights for the tau aggregation inhibitors in the area of Alzheimer's disease, while AC Immune has retained certain development rights in orphan indications and co-development and co-promotion options in some other indications.

As part of the deal, Eli Lilly will make an upfront payment of 80 million francs ($80 million) to AC Immune, with the former also purchasing a $50 million note, convertible to an equity position in the latter. In addition, AC Immune is eligible to receive 60 million francs ($60 million) in potential near-term development milestones, as well as other milestones up to approximately 1.7 billion francs ($1.7 billion) and tiered royalty payments in the low double digits.

Commenting on the agreement, AC Immune chief executive Andrea Pfeifer called it "transformational for the future" of the company, adding that Eli Lilly's "substantial experience in neurology, and particularly in Alzheimer's disease, is a major validation of our small molecule platform for CNS therapeutics."

For related analysis, see ViewPoints: AC Immune, Eli Lilly to tackle tau- but not saying goodbye to amyloid.

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