Lilly Aims to Boost Immuno Business with $2.4B DICE Buy

Pictured: Red Eli Lilly sign on a white wall/iStock, Michael Vi

Pictured: Red Eli Lilly sign on a white wall/iStock, Michael Vi

To deepen its autoimmune disease portfolio, Eli Lilly is acquiring California-based biopharma DICE Therapeutics for more than $2 billion, the pharmaceutical giant announced Tuesday.

Under the terms of the deal, Lilly will buy all of DICE’s outstanding shares for $48 a pop, representing a 40% premium to the latter’s 30-day volume weighted average shares price as of last Friday. Lilly will make the payment in cash, amounting to an aggregate of around $2.4 billion.

The two companies expect to close the buyout during the third quarter of 2023, pending anti-trust clearance. The deal will also only push through if a majority of DICE’s outstanding shares are tendered. DICE’s board of directors has unanimously recommended that stockholders offer their shares for sale.

DICE shares jumped 41% in pre-market trading Tuesday in response to the news.

If it pushes through, the deal will give Lilly access to DICE’s proprietary drug discovery and development platform DELSCAPE, which optimizes the design of small molecule drugs to effectively disrupt protein-protein interactions, according to DICE’s website.

This approach allows researchers to produce orally active medicines for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, both therapeutic areas dominated by injectable systemic biologics.

“Our novel approach to discovering and advancing oral, small molecules against validated protein-protein interaction targets has even greater potential with Lilly’s industry-leading clinical development capabilities to get these medicines to patients suffering from autoimmune diseases,” DICE Therapeutics CEO Kevin Judice said in a statement.

DICE’s DELSCAPE platform has yielded two oral candidates that have begun early-stage clinical testing: DC-806 and DC-853 target the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-17, a known player in psoriasis and other autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. DICE is also developing oral integrin inhibitors for fibrosis and inflammatory bowel disease and an oral PD-L1 inhibitor for various cancers. These products are still in the preclinical stages.

Once the acquisition closes, DICE’s programs will join the Lilly fold, bolstering the pharma company’s immunology portfolio, which currently includes the approved JAK inhibitor Olumiant (baractinib) for rheumatoid arthritis and injectable monoclonal antibody Taltz (ixekizumab), indicated for plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and axial spondyloarthritis.

Lilly’s clinical development pipeline for immunology includes mirikizumab, an investigational antibody for ulcerative colitis. In April 2023, the FDA rejected mirikizumab’s bid for authorization, citing issues with the proposed manufacturing process. The regulator did not flag problems with the candidate’s safety data or proposed label.

Mirikizumab is approved for ulcerative colitis in Japan and has recently been given recommended for approval by the  European Medicine Agency. The molecule is also in Phase III development for Crohn’s disease.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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