Confo hands baton to Lilly for non-opioid pain med development in $40M upfront deal

Eli Lilly will take the baton on developing a peripheral pain candidate from Confo Therapeutics, handing off $40 million upfront and a potential $590 million total down the track if all goes well.

Confo has been developing CFTX-1554 in phase 1 as a non-opioid option for neuropathic pain. The condition is caused by damage to the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. The therapy could also eventually be developed in other pain indications.

The biotech hopes that CFTX-1554 can address pain without causing side effects common with opioids and other pain meds such as addiction and sedation. The therapy is an inhibitor of the angiotensin II type 2 receptor. Confo believes CFTX-1554 can overcome challenges other companies have had in targeting this receptor.

Lilly will continue clinical development of the therapy beyond phase 1. Dosing in an early-stage study got underway in healthy participants in March 2022.

Lilly will pay out a $40 million upfront fee and the remaining $590 million based on milestones, plus royalties. The agreement also includes a program to develop Confo’s existing therapeutic antibody candidates that target the same receptor as CFTX-1554. Confo will continue to hold a co-investment option and could fund future development programs after clinical proof-of-concept for additional royalties.

Confo will turn to its small-molecule and biologics GPCR-targeted assets, said CEO Cedric Ververken.

Lilly, which markets migraine drugs Emgality and Reyvow, is no stranger to pain meds. CFTX-1554 will join the Big Pharma's portfolio of clinical-stage pain treatments that already spans three candidates, all of which are in phase 2 trials. There's a P2X7 receptor antagonist acquired from Asahi Kasei Pharma in 2021 for chronic pain conditions, a transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 antagonist being tested as a non-opioid treatment for chronic pain conditions and an SSTR4 agonist.