Eli Lilly and Co. has agreed to pay Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc. $100 million up front while investing $100 million more in the company as part of a new licensing and research collaboration agreement focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of medicines aimed at "more than 10 targets" in cardiometabolic disease, neurodegeneration and pain indications.
Dicerna stands to earn up to $350 million per target in development and commercialization milestones as well as tiered royalties ranging from the mid-single to low-double digits on any resulting product sales.
The partners will also work together to generate next-generation oligonucleotide therapies, an area that Lilly has also explored with Carlsbad, Calif.-based Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc. in the oncology space.
Dicerna's president and CEO, Doug Fambrough, told BioWorld the partners will be working on three undisclosed targets "right out of the gate," all leveraging the company's liver-oriented GalXC technology platform. GalXC was also at the center of the company's $637 million deal with Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc., struck just last week.
That the Lilly deal could potentially deliver such a big payday – hitting $3.7 billion if every milestone were met – is reflective of two elements, Fambrough said. The first element is its coverage of such a broad range of potential therapeutic areas with GalXC as it stands today, he said. The second aspect is the potential to make GalXC "more than it is today" by going after other tissues that are relevant to cardiometabolic disease and into neurons to address neurodegenerative and pain indications – an area in which Ionis and its partner, Biogen Inc., have found notable success with the antisense oligonucleotide Spinraza (nusinersen). (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 28, 2016.)
Dicerna will have an exclusive relationship with Lilly in the neurodegeneration area, but a nonexclusive arrangement for targeting additional cardiometabolic tissues outside the scope of the deal, Fambrough said.
Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly's senior vice president and chief scientific officer, said he was excited for his Indianapolis-based company to work with Dicerna to "study targets that up until now have proven to be very technically challenging." He was unavailable for further comment on Monday.
The deal is Dicerna's second big win this month, following its new Alexion agreement. Under terms of that deal, Dicerna receive $22 million up front and an equity investment of $15 million for the first two candidates. It stands to receive $20 million more if Alexion exercises an option to advance preclinical GalXC RNAi molecules for two additional targets within the complement pathway. The deal also made Dicerna eligible for additional development and sales milestones totaling up to $580 million plus royalty payments for the programs. (See BioWorld, Oct. 25, 2018.)
The company's last big partnership before Alexion arrived as a November 2017 agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, which enlisted its help to discover and develop new therapies for chronic liver diseases. (See BioWorld, Nov. 3, 2017.)
Other potential partners had been slow to engage with Dicerna prior to the settlement of its long-running legal dispute with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. A settlement between the companies, announced in April, restricted Dicerna from developing oligonucleotide-based therapeutics directed toward a defined set of Alnylam targets for periods ranging from 18 months up to four years, though it wasn't immediately clear which targets were covered in the agreement. (See BioWorld, April 23, 2018.)
Shares of Dicerna (NYSE:DRNA) rose 4.7 percent on Monday to $13.62. Share of Lilly (NYSE:LLY) rose about 1 percent to $107.40.