Eli Lilly, Foghorn enter into pact to develop genetic cancer treatments

USA – Loxo Oncology, an Eli Lilly and Company R&D group, and Foghorn Therapeutics Inc have collaborated to develop oncology medicines using Foghorn’s Gene Traffic Control platform.

Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts Foghorn creates drugs that modulate chromatin, a substance found in chromosomes that is made up of DNA and protein.

The chromatin regulatory system is a system in which cells control gene expression by using molecules that turn genes on or off. Foghorn refers to its strategy as “gene traffic control.”

The technology developed by the company provides insight into the chromatin regulatory system, allowing for the identification and validation of potential chromatin drug targets.

While drugging the chromatin regulatory system may have applications in virology, immunology, and neurology, Foghorn’s initial focus is cancer.

Cancer mutations that affect the chromatin regulatory system, according to biotech, create genetic dependencies on which a cancer cell relies for survival. The company’s technology is used to create drugs that target these vulnerabilities.

The collaboration also includes three additional discovery programs that will make use of Foghorn’s Gene Traffic Control platform.

According to the terms of the agreement, Foghorn will receive US$300 million in cash up front, as well as an equity investment of US$80 million by Lilly at a price of US$20 per share.

Foghorn will be in charge of discovery and early research for the BRM-selective program as well as an unnamed target program.

The BRM program is designed to target brahma-related gene-1 (BRG1) mutated cancers. According to the press release, BRG-1 mutations account for approximately 5 percent of all cancer and 10 percent of non-small cell lung cancer tumors.

Lilly will conduct development and commercialization activities, with Foghorn participating in operational activities and sharing costs.

Foghorn and Lilly will split the U.S. economics 50/50, and Foghorn will be eligible for royalties on ex-U.S. sales.

In addition, three discovery-stage programs based on Foghorn’s gene traffic control technology are included in the agreement.

For those programs, Foghorn will be in charge of molecule discovery and early research, while Lilly will be in charge of clinical development and, if approved, commercialization.

Foghorn said it may also receive up to a total of US$1.3 billion in potential development and commercialization milestones for additional discovery programs.

This collaboration enables an acceleration and expansion of our pipeline and significantly strengthens our balance sheet as we strive to bring new medicines to patients and their families,” said Foghorn CEO Adrian Gottschalk.

Foghorn went public in October 2020 after it raised US$120 million in its initial public offering.

Foghorn’s second alliance is with Eli Lilly. Merck joined Foghorn as a partner last year, investing US$15 million up front to discover and develop small molecule drugs that disrupt transcription factors, which are proteins that turn genes on and off.

The precise target or targets of those drugs have not been revealed. This agreement could result in R&D and regulatory milestone payments totaling US$245 million for Foghorn.

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