Eli Lilly Infuses $1 Billion into Protomer Acquisition to Procure “Next-Gen” Insulin Products
On July 14th, Eli Lilly announced it would acquire the private biotech company Protomer. The move comes as Lilly tries to move beyond regular insulin. The company has faced criticism over the high price of their life-saving insulin products Humalog, Humulin, and Basaglar, which brought more than $1 billion in revenues in Q1. Besides, they face growing competition from Walmart, which introduced fast-acting insulin at half the price of Lilly’s generic insulin.
Diabetes affects more than 34 million people, and it is the 7th leading cause of death in the US. Patients require constant monitoring and insulin treatment. However, the high cost of insulin has received condemnation from politicians and the public in general.
One of the reasons for the high price is that three companies, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and Eli Lilly, control over 90% of the global insulin market. In 2016, the average cost of a year of insulin for a patient had risen to $5,705.
As a response to the criticism, Lilly introduced a lower-cost version of Humalog at 50% of the original cost. This is $137.35 per vial. However, with mounting pressure from competitors and lawmakers, Lilly is looking for next-generation insulin drugs.
“Lilly has long strived to make life better for people living with diabetes, and we have a continued determination to provide real solutions, including innovation in insulin therapy,” said Ruth Gimeno, Vice President, diabetes research and clinical investigation at Lilly.
Looking to the Future of Insulin
Back in 2020, Lilly made an initial equity investment in Promoter Technologies alongside the JDRF T1D Fund. This gave Lilly 14% ownership of the company, a strategic move towards the next-generation protein therapeutics for diabetes.
Based in California, Protomer specializes in creating therapeutics that respond to signals of the body. Using their proprietary molecular engineering of protein sensor (MEPS) platform, they developed glucose-responsive insulin. This therapeutic activates when sugar levels rise throughout the day. This would decrease the stress in patients, and it would be a significant advance in treating the disease.
“Glucose-sensing insulin is the next frontier and has the potential to revolutionize the treatment and quality of life of people with diabetes by dramatically improving both therapeutic efficacy and safety of insulin therapy,” Gimeno added.
“Protomer’s glucose-sensing insulin program, based on its proprietary molecular engineering of protein sensors (MEPS) platform, is showing significant promise, and Lilly is excited to enhance our diabetes pipeline with the company’s innovative technology.”
The value of the transaction is estimated at over $1 billion, including development, regulatory, and commercial milestones.
“We are excited to join Lilly, a leader in diabetes therapies, and advance our science with their support to better serve the needs of patients. This transaction validates our team’s accomplishments, and we look forward to continuing our important work together with Lilly,” said Alborz Mahdavi, CEO and Founder of Protomer.
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