Lilly puts potential $660M on the line for protein-protein interaction blockers


Lilly puts potential $660M on the line for protein-protein interaction blockers

Published: Nov 29, 2023

By Tristan Manalac


Eli Lilly on Tuesday signed a license and collaboration agreement with Tokyo-based biotech PRISM BioLab to discover and develop small molecule inhibitors of protein-protein interactions.

Under the terms of the deal, Lilly will make an upfront payment and pledges up to $660 million in preclinical, clinical and commercial development milestones. The Japanese biotech will also be eligible for royalties on future sales of any pharmaceutical product that emerges from the partnership.

In return, Lilly will gain access to PRISM’s proprietary PepMetics platform, which synthesizes small molecule drug candidates that can behave like peptides, according to the biotech’s website. PepMetics compounds mimic α-helices and β-turns, key secondary structure of proteins, which in turn allows the designed molecules to target and modulate protein-protein interactions (PPIs).

PRISM’s platform also uses unique and proprietary scaffolds that make the PepMetics compounds stable. Short α-helices and β-turns are otherwise highly unstable and “cannot exist in nature,” according to PRISM’s website.

Under the agreement, the pharma giant can wield PepMetics to discover small molecule inhibitors of one PPI target of its choosing and has the option to add up to two more targets. Lilly will be responsible for the clinical development of these candidates, as well as the commercialization of the resulting products.

PRISM CEO Dai Takehara in a statement said that the PepMetics technology could “change the current paradigm in drug discovery buy turning previously undruggable PPIs into targets readily druggable with small molecules.” The Lilly collaboration will help bring the company closer to achieving this vision.

Lilly is PRISM’s latest high-profile partner. In June 2020, the Japanese biotech teamed with Boehringer Ingelheim for a multi-project drug discovery agreement, drawing from its deep library of small molecule peptide mimetic compounds. Then, in November 2022, PRISM signed a contract with Merck, likewise leveraging its peptide mimetic candidates.

PRISM is also working with Roche and Genentech under a January 2022 agreement, screening its proprietary library of compounds against targets selected by the pharma companies. In November 2021, PRISM closed its Series C fundraising round, which was backed by Eisai.

For Lilly, PRISM is the most recent addition in a series of deals and acquisitions in recent months. In October 2023, the pharma dropped $1.4 billion to buy cancer biotech Point Biopharma and in July, made a $1.93 billion investment to acquire Versanis in a bid to further bolster its weight loss portfolio.

Lilly also made two big purchases in June 2023, buying European antibody-drug conjugate developer Emergence Therapeutics for an undisclosed amount and diabetes cell therapy partner Sigilon Therapeutics for nearly $310 million.

Source: BioSpace