Eli Lilly to Buy AurKa Pharma and ARMO

  • Eli Lilly to Buy AurKa Pharma and ARMO (c) jetcityimage/Getty ImagesEli Lilly to Buy AurKa Pharma and ARMO (c) jetcityimage/Getty Images

US drugmaker Eli Lilly has agreed to buy Canada’s AurKa Pharma from TVM Capital Life Science, bringing back in-house experimental cancer drug AK-01. The drug, an Aurora kinase A inhibitor, was originally discovered by Lilly, which sold it to TVM Capital Life Science in 2016 after reviewing its clinical pipeline priorities.

AurKa Pharma is currently studying AK-01 in Phase 1 clinical trials in multiple types of solid tumors. AK-01 has been shown to be highly selective for Aurora A, which is believed to play a crucial role in cellular division by controlling chromosomal segregation and is frequently overexpressed in cancerous tumors.

“The acquisition of AurKa Pharma expands our pipeline with a promising oncology compound targeting a distinct cell cycle pathway. The work done by AurKa will allow Lilly to leverage emerging data about cancers in which this molecule might be effective, and determine if it can be beneficial to people living with various forms of cancer,” said Levi Garraway, senior vice president, global development and medical affairs at Lilly Oncology.

Under the terms of the transaction, Lilly will acquire all shares of AurKa for an upfront payment of $110 million. AurKa’s shareholders are also eligible to receive up to $465 million in regulatory and sales milestones if AK-01 wins approval in the US and other markets, and achieves certain sales targets.

The deal follows another announced just four days earlier, when Lilly said it was to pay about $1.6 billion for ARMO Biosciences, boosting its immuno-oncology program.

Headquartered in Redwood City, California, ARMO is a late-stage immuno-oncology company that is developing a pipeline of novel, proprietary product candidates designed to activate the immune system of cancer patients to recognize and eradicate tumors.

Lilly gains access to ARMO’s lead candidate, pegilodecakin, a PEGylated IL-10, which has demonstrated clinical benefit both as a single agent and in combination with chemotherapy and checkpoint inhibitor therapy across several tumor types.

Pegilodecakin is currently undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials in pancreatic cancer as well as earlier Phase trials in lung and renal cell cancers, melanoma and other solid tumors.

ARMO also has several other immuno-oncology drug candidates in various stages of pre-clinical development.

“We believe that pegilodecakin has a unique immunologic mechanism of action that could eventually allow physicians to offer new hope for many cancer patients,” Garraway said.

The acquisition is expected to complete by the end of the second quarter, subject to the usual closing conditions and regulatory approvals.


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