Lilly Strikes $1.6 Billion Deal with Merus for Cancer Treating Bispecific Antibodies

by Rajaneesh K. Gopinath
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Loxo Oncology at Lilly is betting a whopping $1.6 billion on a research collaboration with Netherlands-based Merus for the development of cancer-treating drugs through the latter’s proprietary technology.

The exclusive license agreement intends to marry Loxo’s scientific and rational drug design expertise with Meru’s Biclonics® technology platform to yield three CD3-engaging T-cell re-directing bispecific antibody therapies, the companies announced on December 19th.

As per the terms, Merus will receive an upfront cash payment of $40 million and a $20 million worth equity investment made by Lilly on its common shares. Merus is also eligible to receive up to $540 million for each product on achieving certain development and commercialization milestones, as well as tiered royalties on the sales of products arising from the collaboration.


CD3-Engaging Bispecific Antibodies

Blinatumomab and Emicizumab are the two bispecific antibodies that are presently available for commercial use. Estimates suggest that the global market size of these therapeutics would reach $10 Billion By 2026.

Eli Lilly is not new to this class of drugs and has previously collaborated with Genmab for its DuoBody technology platform to develop bispecific antibodies. At present, several bispecific antibodies developed by big players such as Roche, Amgen, Pfizer, Sanofi among others are undergoing clinical trials for cancer treatment. Among them, the CD3-engaging bispecific antibodies are the most common.

By targeting the tumor-associated antigens on the cancer cells and CD3 on the surface of T-cells, the CD3-engaging bispecific antibodies activate T-cells to induce an immune response against cancer cells by bringing them together.

“CD3-engaging bispecific antibodies are rapidly becoming one of the most transformative immune-modulating modalities used to treat cancer. We expect these therapies will become an important component of the Loxo Oncology at Lilly biologics strategy,” said Jacob Van Naarden, Chief Operating Officer of Loxo Oncology at Lilly.

“Merus has built a differentiated platform and one that we believe can enable us to create bispecific antibody therapies with wider therapeutic indexes than those available today. We look forward to working closely with Merus to develop new potential medicines for patients with cancer,” he added.


Biclonics® Platform

Merus’ Biclonics® platform generates full-length IgG human bispecific antibodies that have a long half-life and low immunogenicity. Merus have struck profitable deals previously with Incyte and Ono Pharmaceutical to develop bispecific antibodies using this proprietary technology.

“The collaboration with Loxo Oncology at Lilly and their world class research capabilities opens up exciting possibilities for Merus’ Biclonics® platform,” said Bill Lundberg, MD., President and Chief Executive Officer at Merus.

“Our CD3 T-cell engager platform includes over 175 novel and diverse anti-CD3 common light chain antibodies across a wide range of affinities and attributes and enables functional screening of large libraries for optimal performance. We look forward to working together with Loxo Oncology at Lilly to define a new generation of medicines to treat cancer.”

Related Article: Roche Impresses with its Bispecific Antibody Portfolio for Blood Cancer Treatments



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