USA – Lilly, an American pharmaceutical company, has bolstered its presence in the radiopharmaceutical sector through a comprehensive collaboration with Aktis Oncology, a private biotech company.

The agreement entails an upfront payment of US$60 million from Lilly to Aktis, with the potential for up to US$1.1 billion in milestone payments and royalties.

In this venture, Lilly will gain global rights to develop radiopharmaceutical targets discovered by Aktis. Notably, this agreement excludes Aktis’ existing pipeline of seven programs.

 Aktis, backed by industry giants like Merck & Co, Novartis, and Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), specializes in therapies that utilize targeted radiation to damage cancer cells’ DNA. 

Its lead candidate focuses on nectin-4, a protein prevalent in cancers such as breast and bladder cancer.

This collaboration follows Lilly’s strategic acquisition of POINT Biopharma in October 2023 for US$1.4 billion, augmenting its radiopharmaceutical portfolio. 

POINT Biopharma’s pipeline includes two lead programs undergoing Phase III clinical trials for prostate cancer and neuroendocrine tumors.

The radiopharmaceutical market is witnessing a surge in activity, with major players like Novartis and BMS making significant acquisitions.

Novartis recently acquired Mariana Oncology for US$1.75 billion, gaining access to MC-339, a radioligand therapy designed for small-cell lung cancer. 

Similarly, BMS acquired RayzeBio for US$4.2 billion, expanding its clinical-stage radiopharmaceutical portfolio.

Despite the promising outlook for radiopharmaceuticals, their development poses challenges, particularly regarding supply chain logistics, due to the short half-life of radioisotopes. 

However, Lilly remains optimistic about the collaboration’s potential impact on advancing radiopharmaceutical capabilities.

Jacob Van Naarden, Head of Lilly Oncology, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, stating, “This collaboration with Aktis Oncology builds upon our growing radiopharmaceutical capabilities and provides access to an exciting and innovative technology for creating important and differentiated radiopharmaceuticals.”

Aktis will lead the initial discovery phase and early human imaging studies, leveraging its proprietary miniprotein discovery platform to generate tumor-targeting agents. 

Subsequently, Lilly will oversee clinical development from Phase 1 onwards. Despite the complexities involved in radiopharmaceutical production, this collaboration holds promise for advancing therapeutic options in cancer treatment.

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