Lilly pays Sitryx $50M upfront for preclinical autoimmune assets 

Eli Lilly has paid Sitryx $50 million (€46 million) upfront for global rights to up to four autoimmune drugs. The deal sees Lilly commit to up to $820 million in development milestones for the chance to work with Sitryx on drugs that manipulate intracellular metabolic pathways.

Sitryx is focused on the regulation of cell metabolism. By targeting such pathways, the British biotech thinks it can advance disease-modifying immuno-oncology and immuno-inflammation therapies. The potential of the idea, and credentials of the immunology and metabolism researchers who founded the company, enabled Sitryx to raise $30 million from backers including GlaxoSmithKline in 2018.

The series A positioned Sitryx to take one program up to an IND approval and potentially advance a second asset into IND-enabling studies. However, Sitryx has now opted to partner the programs with Lilly rather than fly solo.

Lilly has picked up the rights to Sitryx’s two lead projects and two assets against other targets. Sitryx will remain in charge of drug discovery, but Lilly will take responsibility for clinical development and commercialization. The partners will form a five-year collaboration to advance the candidates. 

To land the assets, Lilly is paying $50 million upfront and making a $10 million equity investment in Sitryx. The agreement also features up to $820 million in development milestones, with commercial paydays for Sitryx to follow if any of the assets get that far. 

Sitryx is yet to provide a close look at its candidates or their targets, but it has provided an outline of its approach to treating cancer and inflammatory disease. The therapeutic approach rests on the belief that it is possible to alter the activity of specific cells—and thereby modify diseases—by manipulating intracellular metabolic pathways. 

In its early days, Sitryx built up a portfolio of small molecules, proteolysis-targeting chimeras and topical formulations designed to act on such intracellular pathways. Lilly has picked up the rights to the most advanced autoimmune applications of the concept, but Sitryx remains in control of efforts to treat cancers through the manipulation of intracellular metabolic pathways.