Lilly cuts a trio of pipeline assets, including BTK inhibitor, diabetes drug

Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly returned the rights to the BTK inhibitor, being developed for rheumatoid arthritis, back to South Korea’s Hanmi Pharmaceutical. (Eli Lilly)

As it digests its Loxo Oncology acquisition, Eli Lilly is pruning its earlier-stage pipeline. 

The Big Pharma has culled a pair of phase 2 assets—a dual amylin calcitonin receptor agonist (DACRA) for the treatment of diabetes and a BTK inhibitor being investigated in immunology—as well as a urocortin-2 peptide, a treatment for heart failure that had reached phase 1. The Big Pharma revealed (PDF) the cuts in its fourth-quarter earnings presentation. 

Details were thin on the ground, but Lilly looks to have picked up the diabetes program, dubbed DACRA-042, in its acquisition of KeyBioscience in June 2017. At the time, Lilly paid $55 million upfront for the rights to KeyBioscience’s DACRA pipeline, which was in development for Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic conditions.

The deal gave Lilly access to the synthetic peptide DACRA, KBP-042, which was then in phase 2, as well as to a handful of other programs. The 255-patient phase 2 study of KBP-042 completed in July last year. 

As for the BTK inhibitor, Lilly returned the rights to the rheumatoid arthritis drug back to South Korea’s Hanmi Pharmaceutical, reported Korean news outlet Yonhap News Agency in January. The Big Pharma had forked over $50 million upfront to license the drug back in 2015, but with milestones and royalties, the deal had the potential to reach $690 million. 

"This month, Lilly has decided to hand back rights to the drug back to us, and we are going to receive all trial data and related ones after the licensing-out deal within 90 days," Hanmi said in a regulatory filing, Yonhap reported. 

The latest cuts follow the removal of seven clinical-stage assets during the third quarter, including a BACE inhibitor for Alzheimer’s. The decision came after after the termination of two phase 3 studies evaluating a different BACE inhibitor, lanabecestat.