Eli Lilly will partner Oxford-based Sitryx to develop up to four drug candidates to treat autoimmune disease in a deal worth €811M if development milestones are met.

The UK biotech will receive an upfront payment of €46M from the US big pharma, which will also buy €10M of equity in the company. Sitryx can also expect up to €755M in developmental milestone payments for the collaborative programs.

Sitryx will use the money to develop the treatments to the point that they can be tested in humans, which includes its two current lead candidates. 

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This new funding adds to a respectable €26M Series A round raised to launch the company in October 2018, and will be “transformational” for Sitryx according to CEO Neil Weir.

Sitryx was formed in 2018 by six well-known researchers in the field of immunology including Paul Peter Tak, who was previously in charge of oncology and immuno-inflammation R&D at GSK. The biotech’s pipeline is still at the preclinical stage and it has a focus on developing treatments that regulate cell metabolism in the immune system.

“The energetic status of cells has been shown to be pivotal in controlling the behavior of disease-associated cells in immuno-oncology and immuno-inflammation,” Weir told me.

“Correcting immune cell function or inhibiting tumor cell growth through targeting metabolic pathways has the potential to deliver new approaches to treat a wide range of severe diseases.”

The UK company has only shared minimal information about its technology and has not disclosed the specific diseases it will be targeting. But, it has stated that it plans to focus on autoimmune and inflammatory disease therapies — the focus of the partnership deal — and it will also develop immuno-oncology candidates separate to its arrangement with Eli Lilly. 

“From T-cells through to myeloid cells, Sitryx is directing its efforts at a range of target types playing critical roles in the regulation of basic energetic pathways,” commented Weir.

The collaboration will initially last for five years, with Sitryx responsible for drug discovery and early development of the therapies, and Eli Lilly focusing on clinical trials and commercial development. In addition to developmental milestone payments of up to €755M from Eli Lilly, Sitryx will be eligible for commercialization milestones and royalties should any of the drug candidates reach the market.


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