Biopharma firm with Irish link signs major deal with Eli Lilly

3 Apr 2020

Image: © Microgen/

Based in the UK and co-founded by Trinity’s Prof Luke O’Neill, biotech start-up Sitryx will develop four compounds to treat autoimmune diseases.

Pharma giant Eli Lily has announced plans to partner with Oxford-based biopharma start-up Sitryx as part of a global licensing and research collaboration. Founded in 2018, Sitryx is working to regulate cell metabolism in the development of therapeutics in immuno-oncology and immune-inflammation.

As part of the agreement, four preclinical compounds will be researched and identified by Sitryx with the hope that they could lead to new medicines for autoimmune diseases. Sitryx will receive an upfront payment of $50m and a $10m equity investment from Eli Lily.

If the partnership achieves all its targets, Sitryx could receive up to $820m in addition to royalty payments on sales. In return, Sitryx said it will give Eli Lily the exclusive rights to globally develop and commercialise the four compounds.

The partnership will span the next five years, with Sityx responsible for drug discovery and Eli Lilly to fund and manage the clinical development and commercial phase of the partnership.

‘A tremendous collaboration’

Sitryx was co-founded by Prof Luke O’Neill of Trinity College Dublin’s Biomedical Science Institute (TBSI), as well as fellow researchers Houman Ashrafian, Jeff Rathmell, Jonathan Powell, Mike Rosenblum and Paul Peter Tak.

Speaking of the deal, O’Neill said: ‘This is a tremendous collaboration for Sitryx and we are delighted to work with Eli Lilly, one of the world’s leading immunology companies.

“My lab in Trinity is collaborating closely with Sitryx, with Dr Eva Palsson McDermott and Dr Zbigniew Zaslona working on two projects for Sitryx in TBSI. We look forward to further extensive collaboration as part of this development.”

Sitryx’s CEO, Dr Neil Weir, added: “We are excited to partner with Eli Lilly to pursue the discovery of novel targets and the development of innovative therapies for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases in the fast-emerging area of immunometabolism.

“This agreement is transformational for Sitryx and further validates the strength of our scientific expertise and that of our founder network and the potential for Sitryx to become a leader in this field.”

In 2018, Sitryx announced it had raised $30m from a syndicate of specialist international healthcare investors co-led by SV Health Investors and Sofinnova Partners, and including Longwood Fund and global healthcare company GSK.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic