Entos and Lilly sign agreement to research and develop new brain-disease therapies

Edmonton-based Entos Pharmaceuticals has signed an agreement with Eli Lilly, giving the American pharmaceutical company exclusive rights to Entos's Fusogenix PLV technology for $50 million now and up to $400 million in the future.

Lilly and Entos will use Fusogenix PLV, a nucleic acid delivery system, to research, develop, and commercialize new therapies for brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, dementia, or multiple sclerosis.

"(The system) was fully developed here," Entos CEO John Lewis told Taproot. "It'll be hopefully used in lifesaving medicines applied to people with devastating brain diseases around the world."

Lilly will provide the cargo, or genetic material, for the research. And while cargo has been a particular area of emphasis for scientists working in genetic medicine, Lewis explained that the delivery system to access targets in the central and peripheral nervous systems is the crucial component.

"Whenever we talked about RNA or gene editing, for example, they're always talking about the cargo ... and so we know we can do that," said Lewis. "But if you actually wanted to put it in humans and have it be a safe, effective, and redose-able drug, you need a platform like the Fusogenix platform or it's never going to work."

The Fusogenix PLV platform in particular was attractive to Lilly because "the current ways of delivering genetic medicines in the brain don't work very well," Lewis said.

"Nucleic acid-based therapies hold great promise in addressing the biologic cause of many serious diseases that have significant unmet medical need," said Andrew Adams, vice-president of Lilly Genetic Medicine, in a news release. "Overcoming barriers to the safe and effective delivery of such therapies to specific target cells is essential to realizing their potential."

Protein chemist Hector Vega and CSO Arun Raturi in the Entos laboratory

Entos protein chemist Hector Vega and chief science officer Arun Raturi in the laboratory. (Entos Pharmaceuticals)

Entos will receive $50 million for its technology, including an equity investment by Lilly in Entos. The Edmonton company is also eligible for up to $400 million in potential developmental and commercial payments for each of the brain-therapy programs under development, as well as additional royalties once products are successfully developed and commercialized.

The announcement closely follows a successful 2021 for the company, including a partnership with California company BioMarin to develop gene therapy candidates and partial funding for a new commercial manufacturing facility in Edmonton.

Looking forward, Entos will aim to land federal government support to move forward with the facility, bring its COVID-19 vaccine through Phase 3 trials to approval, and begin first-in-human clinical trials for cancer gene therapy at the Cross Cancer Institute.