Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) today announced an agreement to acquire AurKa Pharma, Inc., a company established by TVM Capital Life Science to develop oncology compound AK-01, an Aurora kinase A inhibitor that was originally discovered at Lilly. The compound is a potential first-in-class asset that AurKa Pharma is studying in Phase 1 clinical trials in multiple types of solid tumors.
Aurora kinases are believed to play a crucial role in cellular division by controlling chromosomal segregation. Defects in segregation can cause genetic instability, a condition highly associated with the formation of tumors. Aurora kinases, consisting of Aurora A, Aurora B and Aurora C, are key mitotic regulators required for genome stability and are frequently overexpressed in cancerous tumors. AurKa Pharma's asset, AK-01, has been shown to be highly selective for Aurora A, with potential clinical benefit observed in Phase 1 studies. Future studies will seek to determine if the selectivity profile of AK-01 can improve efficacy while limiting toxicity risks to a manageable level.
After a review of its clinical pipeline priorities in 2016, Lilly sold the compound to TVM Capital Life Science, which then established AurKa as part of the TVM Life Science Ventures VII fund. The fund is a novel investment model that seeks to develop early-stage pharmaceutical assets in a capital-efficient manner. As part of its innovation strategy, Lilly actively participates with venture capital firms to source early stage opportunities.
"The acquisition of AurKa Pharma supports Lilly's external innovation strategy, in which we seek to partner with leading life science venture capital firms in order to identify, support and access promising innovation in areas of unmet medical need," said Darren Carroll, senior vice president of corporate business development at Lilly. "We are excited with the value TVM created for this compound through its early-Phase studies, and we look forward to more opportunities in the future."
"Lilly Oncology is focused on the development of innovative cancer therapies that can make a meaningful difference for patients," said Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president, global development and medical affairs, Lilly Oncology. "The acquisition of AurKa Pharma expands our pipeline with a promising oncology compound targeting a distinct cell cycle pathway. The work done by AurKa will allow Lilly to leverage emerging data about cancers in which this molecule might be effective, and determine if it can be beneficial to people living with various forms of cancer."
"Through the unique healthcare venture capital model pioneered by TVM Capital Life Science, companies such as AurKa have been established to more quickly and efficiently bring promising compounds to clinical proof-of-concept," said Luc Marengere, Ph.D., Managing Partner at TVM Capital Life Science. "We are pleased that the scientific advances made by AurKa could contribute to the development of AK-01 and hopefully help deliver a potential new medicine for cancer patients."
Under the terms of the agreement, Lilly will acquire all shares of AurKa Pharma. In return, AurKa Pharma shareholders will receive an upfront payment of $110 million. AurKa Pharma shareholders are also eligible to receive up to $465 million in regulatory and sales milestones should AK-01 gain approval in the U.S. and other markets, and achieve certain sales levels.
This transaction will be reflected in Lilly's reported results and financial guidance according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and is subject to customary closing conditions. There will be no change to Lilly's 2018 non-GAAP earnings per share guidance as a result of this transaction.Baird is acting as financial advisor to AurKa in this transaction.