Mere weeks after signing major strategic collaborations with contract service firms Covance, Quintiles and 3i, Eli Lilly has journeyed further down the outsourcing route – albeit with a different spin – by forging another agreement with India’s Jubilant Organosys.
Lilly has set up a 50:50 joint venture with Jubilant in Bangalore that will see the two companies collaborate on the development of new drugs in oncology, metabolic disease, cardiovascular and diabetes
The new agreement draws the two companies - which already had a five-year drug discovery pact in place since 2006 - even closer.
“As in our discovery collaboration, we believe this unique partnership will be a pioneering effort in leveraging the expertise of a global pharmaceutical company like Lilly with the emerging development capabilities of Jubilant,” said the Indian firm’s co-chairmen Shyam and Hari Bhartia.
The rationale behind the deal is that Lilly has more early-stage compounds in its pipeline than it can realistically develop on its own. By partnering with Jubilant – one of the leading contract research and manufacturing services (CRAMS) companies in India – the hope is that it will hike the number of drugs it can bring through development.
Robert Armstrong, vice president of global external research and development at Lilly, described the JV as “a great addition to Lilly’s quest to create a networked R&D organisation.”
Interestingly, although the joint release issued by the two companies said that the JV would "focus on providing drug development services, exclusively to Jubilant - and Lilly- partnered molecules,” the drug development services may also be extended to third parties.
The JV will provide preclinical work for Lilly and Jubilant, as well as development services to bring the molecules through to Phase II clinical testing, after which the molecules will be returned to their originators for further development. It is expected to start operations before the end of the year.
The joint venture is to be modelled after Lilly’s own early-stage development division, Chorus, which provides drug development for Lilly exclusively using external contract companies.
Chorus was set up by Lilly with the aim of accelerating the time it takes to bring compounds to proof-of-concept, as well as cutting costs compared to Lilly’s internal R&D organisation.
The key question voiced at the time that Chorus was announced was whether this external, truncated approach would work. The quest to prove principle means that little or no work is done to explain mechanisms of action unless it directly impacts proof of concept, for instance, and long-term carcinogenicity studies will also be skipped.
That means that compounds which pass muster need a little more work before registration trials can commence, but avoids the time and expense associated with carrying out those studies for those which do not. The latest move suggests that as Chorus approaches its second anniversary Lilly believes the approach is sound.
Covance deal goes through
Meantime, Lilly also announced late last week that it has finalised its 10-year, $1.6bn agreement with Covance for the provision of preclinical toxicology and other early-stage drug discovery services.
That deal, proposed in August, involved the sale of Lilly’s Greenfield Laboratories facility to Covance for $50m, allowing the drugmaker to hive off an expensive asset yet still gain access to the services that were provided there.
At around the same time Lilly also announced that it would transfer its clinical trial monitoring work in the US and Puerto Rico to Quintiles and the majority of its data management work in the United States to i3, a full-service, global clinical research organisation.