Aktis Oncology forms major drug-discovery collaboration with Eli Lilly

Two bioscience companies with operations in Durham are teaming up to discover new cancer therapies.

The collaboration between Boston-based Aktis Oncology and Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Company is aimed at developing radiopharmaceuticals for a range of solid tumors using Aktis’ novel mini-protein technology platform.

Under the terms of the agreement, Aktis will receive a $60 million upfront cash payment in addition to an equity investment in Aktis by Lilly. In addition, Aktis will be eligible to receive up to an additional $1.1 billion in potential preclinical, clinical, regulatory and commercial milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties.

In exchange, Lilly will receive worldwide rights to develop radiopharmaceutical therapeutic and diagnostic products discovered by Aktis on a defined set of targets selected by Lilly.

“Our strategic collaboration with Lilly leverages Aktis’ unique miniprotein radiopharmaceutical platform capabilities to address novel targets, while delivering a safe and effective clinical profile,” said Matthew Roden, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Aktis. “We are pleased to partner with Lilly in efforts to increase the number of patients that can derive meaningful clinical benefit from targeted radiopharmaceuticals.”

Aktis has developed proprietary platforms to generate tumor-targeting agents with ideal properties for alpha radiotherapy. The company’s lead program targets Nectin-4, a tumor-associated antigen found in urothelial and other cancers.

Designed for high tumor penetration and long residence time, Aktis’ molecules can quickly clear other areas of the body, maximizing tumor elimination while minimizing side effects of treatment, according to the company. This approach would enable clinicians to visualize and verify target engagement prior to exposure to therapeutic radioisotopes.

“This collaboration with Aktis Oncology builds upon our growing radiopharmaceutical capabilities and provides access to an exciting and innovative technology for creating important and differentiated radiopharmaceuticals,” said Jacob Van Naarden, president of Lilly Oncology. “We look forward to collaborating with Aktis and utilizing this emerging modality to bring forward meaningful new therapies for people with cancer.”

Though headquartered in Boston, Aktis has most of its operations in Durham, where it employs about two dozen people. The company was founded in 2020 and is backed by $156 million in Series A venture capital. Pappas Capital of Durham is one of several investors in the company.

Lilly is in the midst of a $450 million addition to its $474 million pharmaceutical manufacturing campus in Research Triangle Park that will add over 100 new positions. In addition, Lilly is investing more than $1 billion in a new drug factory that will create nearly 600 jobs in the Charlotte suburb of Concord.

Barry Teater
scroll back to top of page