Eli Lilly has reached an agreement to acquire Disarm Therapeutics, a biotechnology company developing a new class of disease-modifying treatments for patients with axonal degeneration, including those with multiple sclerosis (MS).
In its announcement, Lilly committed to advancing Disarm’s prospective therapies, currently in preclinical development. These programs include SARM1 for axonal degeneration — the deterioration and loss of function of the axon, the long slender projections of nerve cells. Axonal degeneration is a hallmark of several neurological conditions, such as MS, and is associated with severe sensory, motor, and cognitive symptoms.
“Lilly continues to seek medicines to treat the debilitating pain and loss of function associated with nerve damage,” Mark Mintun, MD, vice president of pain and neurodegeneration research at Lilly, said in a press release.
“The scientific team at Disarm discovered an important and highly promising approach to combat axonal degeneration. We will move quickly to develop their SARM1 inhibitors into potential medicines for peripheral neuropathy [nerve impairment] and neurological diseases such as ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis] and multiple sclerosis,” Mintun said.
Disarm scientists revealed, following a 2017 study, the discovery of SARM1 as the primary driver of axonal degeneration. The researchers found that SARM1’s harmful activity could potentially be targeted to prevent the loss of axons.
Two studies in the journal Science, published by Disarm last summer, outlined the effect of SARM1’s structure on its activity and function. In addition, preclinical results showed that Disarm’s SARM1 inhibitors protected nerve cells from damage in mice and cell cultures.
“Disarm’s innovative approach to treating axonal degeneration holds tremendous promise for addressing a wide spectrum of neurological diseases, and we have made significant strides toward enabling potentially transformative therapies,” said Alvin Shih, MD, Disarm’s CEO.
“Lilly is ideally suited to advance this exciting new approach to treating axonal degeneration, and we look forward to seeing patients benefit from the work that Disarm initiated,” Shih concluded.
The new agreement calls for Disarm to get an upfront $135 million payment. Should Lilly develop and commercialize new treatments resulting from the acquisition, Disarm equity holders may be eligible for up to $1.225 billion in additional future payments for developmental, regulatory, and commercial milestones.
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