Lilly buys pain biotech CoLucid for $960m

Eli Lilly’s new chief executive David Ricks has made his first acquisition, bringing in biotech CoLucid for $960 million – reacquiring a migraine drug the big pharma sold off 12 years ago.

The cost of buying the firm is relatively modest, but signals that Ricks is more willing than his predecessor John Leichleiter to buy in pipeline candidates.

The all-cash transaction adds the phase 3 oral drug lasmiditan to Lilly’s pipeline at a time when the company is looking to boost sales because of patent expiries on key products.

Lasmiditan is an oral 5-HT1f agonist for acute treatment of migraine, and has completed the first of two late stage trials.

Data from the second phase 3 trial, SPARTAN, are due in the second half of this year, and if positive lasmiditan could be approved in the US next year.

Lasmiditan was originally discovered at Lilly and was out-licensed to Massachusetts-based CoLucid in 2005, which has been developing the drug for the past 12 years.

At the time lasmiditan was out-licensed, pain management was not an area of interest for Lilly. Lilly has since reorganised its research and development efforts to focus on migraine as part of its emerging therapeutic area of pain.

More than 36 million people suffering from migraine in the US alone, and lasmiditan could offer a first-in-class treatment, with a novel mechanism of action without vasoconstriction.

This could be desirable in migraine patients at risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as those who are dissatisfied with their current therapy.

Lilly’s pain pipeline includes galcanezumab, in phase 3 development for migraine and cluster headeache.

Lilly also has tanezumab, developed in collaboration with Pfizer, for multiple pain indications, including osteoarthritis, lower back and cancer pain.

Tanezumab was originally developed by Pfizer, but development was delayed in 2012 when the FDA put trials on hold over safety fears related to its drug class.

Lilly partnered with Pfizer the year after in a $1.8 billion deal, believing the FDA would lift the trial hold – which it finally did last year after the companies presented the regulator with new safety data.

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