Lilly goes down under to find a partner for failed cancer drug Lartruvo, licensing certain rights to Telix for $5M

Eli Lilly has pulled failed cancer drug Lartruvo off the scrap heap and licensed certain rights to Australian biotech Telix for a mere $5 million.

Telix, which is based in Melbourne, will give Lartruvo (olaratumab) a second chance to prove itself in soft tissue carcinoma, the company said. The company is licensing rights to radiolabelled forms of the drug from Eli Lilly. 

Lilly could receive up to $225 million in regulatory and commercial milestones if Telix can prove Lartruvo’s worth. Meanwhile, if Telix can successfully develop a companion diagnostic for the drug, Lilly will have the option of paying $5 million for its licensing and up to $30 million in potential development milestones, in addition to royalties, Telix said.  

In 2016, the FDA granted Lartruvo priority review and accellerated approval after a phase 2 trial showed that it extended the lives of advanced and metastatic soft tissue carcinoma patients nearly twofold. Lilly achieved sales of $507 million for Lortrovo from 2017 to 2018.

But in 2019, after a subsequent phase 3 study showed that Lartruvo plus chemotherapy doxorubicin did no better than doxorubicin alone, Lilly took it off shelves.

Telix, however, sees the drug for its potential as a targeting agent for radiopharmaceutical imaging and treatment. The company added that it was willing to take this chance on it based on its demonstrated safety profile.

“The safety data generated by Lilly in relation to the original development program significantly de-risks the program,” Telix CEO Christian Behrenbruch said in a release. “We anticipate that early clinical translation with a radiolabeled olaratumab as an imaging agent may also provide valuable clinical information as to whether this asset has potential therapeutic efficacy.”

Last year, Telix gained its first approval, for prostate cancer treatment Illuccix, in Australia and the United States. In February, the company announced a commercial and distribution partnership for the drug with Global Medical Solutions Australia.

The company also said in its annual report that it is readying new FDA drug applications for kidney cancer imaging and brain cancer imaging.