INDIANAPOLIS—Said to be a “precedent-setting” deal to fight immunological diseases, pharmaceutical leader Eli Lilly and Co. and nonprofit organization Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP)—formerly Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institution—have joined hands to forge the path toward developing next-generation transformative treatments for immunological diseases such as lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and other such disorders.
The key to the project’s success is a shared commitment to use biotechnology approaches in targeting multiple immune checkpoint modulators. Lilly brings its biotechnology capabilities and expertise in immunology to the table, alongside SBP’s deep expertise in understanding cellular pathways regulating the immune system, as well as focusing on the immune checkpoint networks, according to a May 14 news release. This close interaction between the two companies is expected to allow for flexibility and efficiency in advancing projects to clinical investigation and beyond.
In recent years, Lilly has established its presence in immunology through its own R&D and collaborations, with seven molecules currently in the pipeline for conditions such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and inflammatory bowel disease.
SBP has focused on cell communication pathways that control the development of lymphocytes, innate and adaptive immune responses and inflammation, leading to the discovery of molecular targets used for the development of treatments for immunological and inflammatory diseases and cancer.
To boost its product portfolio and pipeline, Lilly has entered into multiple deals over the past few quarters. In May, the company announced a research collaboration agreement with a privately held company, BioNTech AG, for the discovery of novel cancer immunotherapies.
Thomas F. Bumol, senior vice president of biotechnology and immunology research at Lilly, and Carl Ware, director of the Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases Center at SBP, were named co-chairs of the collaboration.
“Immunology is an important research area of focus for Lilly, and through this exciting collaboration with SBP, our scientists can discover and develop new medicines together in a seamless way that takes advantage of each group in a family of key targets,” Bumol stated in a news release.
“The goal of the collaboration is to discover and develop immunological therapies that we hope will be effective in treating a range of autoimmune disorders in the future,” Bumol tells DDNews, declining to discuss specifics. “Our academic research collaborations are important to Lilly, and they are only becoming more so as we work together on early research in key areas. You’ll see that we just announced two more research collaborations—one with Sarah Cannon and one with Dana-Farber.”
Lilly and Sarah Cannon Research Institute (SCRI) on June 17 announced a strategic partnership to co-develop an investigational oncology compound, LY3023414, a PI3K/mTOR dual inhibitor. Under the agreement, SCRI will collaborate with Lilly to provide clinical development expertise and program design, as well as medical oversight and trial management. Patient enrollment for the initial Phase 2 clinical trial is underway.
Also on June 17, Lilly and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute announced a multiyear collaboration to research new medicines currently under development to discover new therapies for cancer.
The agreement specifies that over the course of three years, Dana-Farber will provide research and development expertise for a number of early-stage Lilly oncology compounds, according to a company news release. Dana-Farber researchers and Lilly scientists will work collaboratively in preclinical and clinical studies and molecular studies of patient samples.
As for the SBP deal, “The collaboration [between Lilly and SBP] is precedent-setting in scope and its potential to advance discoveries to the patient more efficiently,” SBP CEO Dr. Perry Nisen stated in a news release, because it combines the deep knowledge of human biology and disease mechanisms among Sanford-Burnham scientists with Lilly’s leadership position in the development of biologics and large molecules.
In late June, the former Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute announced that it had received a gift of $100 million from prominent San Diego developer, philanthropist and honorary trustee Conrad Prebys. In recognition of Prebys’ contribution, the institute now bears his name, along with the other institute namesakes T. Denny Sanford and Malin Burnham, becoming Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.