Eli Lilly and Co. (Lilly) has reached a license agreement with Asahi Kasei Pharma to acquire the exclusive rights for AK1780, an orally bioavailable P2X7 receptor antagonist.

Under the terms of the license agreement, Lilly will undertake the responsibility for global development and regulatory activities for AK1780 in the future.

The US drugmaker will make an upfront payment of $20m to Asahi Kasei Pharma, which is also entitled to receive up to $210m in potential development and regulatory milestones.

Asahi Kasei Pharma will retain the right to promote AK1780 in Japan and China, including in Hong Kong and Macau.

The Japanese company is expected to receive up to $180m in potential sales milestones, along with tiered royalties ranging from the mid-single to low-double digits, subject to successful commercialisation of AK1780.

Lilly pain and neurodegeneration research vice president Mark Mintun said: “Lilly is committed to developing novel medicines that may provide relief for patients suffering with various pain conditions.

“We are pleased to license this molecule from Asahi Kasei Pharma, and look forward to developing it further as a potential treatment for neuroinflammatory pain conditions.”

Asahi Kasei evaluated AK1780 in Phase 1 clinical pharmacology studies

AK1780 has been recently evaluated in the Phase 1 single and multiple ascending dose and clinical pharmacology studies.

Asahi Kasei Pharma operates pharmaceutical and diagnostic businesses as the health care business unit of the Asahi Kasei Group.

The company has developed several advanced drugs in the field of orthopedics, acute care, neurology, pain, and immunology, for patients suffering from diseases.

Asahi Kasei Pharma business development senior executive officer and R&D head Osamu Matsuzaki said: “Asahi Kasei Pharma believes that nobody should have to give up what they would like to do because of illness.

“AK1780 may contribute to a better life and living for people who suffer from chronic pain. Our agreement with Lilly will hopefully accelerate the development of this promising medicine.”

Recently, Loxo Oncology, a biopharmaceutical company of Lilly, has entered into a research collaboration and exclusive license agreement with Merus, to develop up to three CD3-engaging T-cell re-directing bispecific antibody therapies.