Eli Lilly acquires skin disease-focused Dermira in $1.1B deal

The California-based dermatology company’s lead product candidate is a Phase III monoclonal antibody being developed for a type of eczema. Another company, Denmark-based LEO Pharma, has a Phase III drug in the same class for the same disease.

One of the first significant acquisitions of the year by a large biopharma company came Friday as a U.S. drugmaker announced it would buy a firm developing drugs in dermatology.

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly said it would acquire Menlo Park, California-based Dermira for $1.1 billion. Shares of Dermira were up about 4.5% on the Nasdaq when markets closed Friday. Lilly’s executive team is expected to give a presentation Tuesday afternoon at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

Dermira has one approved product, Qbrexza (glycopyrronium), a medicated cloth used to treat primary axillary hyperhidrosis, or excessive underarm sweating. The lead product candidate in its pipeline is lebrikizumab, a monoclonal antibody in Phase III development designed to treat moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema, by targeting the cytokine IL-13.

The drug received fast track designation from the Food and Drug Administration last month, meaning that the agency’s review of Dermira’s application will be expedited.

Another company developing a monoclonal antibody against IL-13 for moderate to severe atopic dermatitis is Ballerup, Denmark-based LEO Pharma, which last month announced positive top-line data from three Phase III studies of its product candidate, tralokinumab.

Data from Dermira’s Phase IIb study of lebrikizumab presented in March showed a statistically significant improvement in eczema skin lesions for all three dose levels compared with placebo. Further data from the study, presented in October, also showed improvements on various secondary endpoints. The two Phase III studies, ADvocate1 and ADvocate2, were launched in October and November, respectively.

“The acquisition of Dermira is consistent with Lilly’s strategy to augment our own internal research by acquiring clinical phase assets in our core therapeutic areas and leveraging our development expertise and commercial infrastructure to bring new medicines to patients,” said Patrik Jonsson, president of Lilly Bio-Medicines, in a statement. “This acquisition provides an opportunity to add a promising Phase 3 immunology compound for atopic dermatitis, while also adding an approved dermatology treatment for primary axillary hyperhidrosis.”

The announcement came slightly more than one year to the day after Lilly said it would buy Loxo Oncology for $8 billion, during the 2019 J.P. Morgan conference.

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