Lilly, Fauna Bio Ink Potential $494M Deal to Find Obesity Drug Targets

Eli Lilly_iStock, jetcityimage

Pictured: Eli Lilly world headquarters in Indianapolis/iStock, jetcityimage

Eli Lilly has been making waves in the weight loss space with its GLP-1 drugs, but it is turning to a small company to discover follow-on obesity targets. In an announcement on Thursday, animal genomics biotech Fauna Bio said it has entered into a multi-year agreement with Lilly in a deal worth $494 million.

Lilly plans to use Fauna’s artificial intelligence platform, dubbed Convergence, which intends to support the pharma giant’s discovery efforts in obesity and will see both companies collaborating to find several targets.  Fauna Bio will receive an upfront payment, including an equity investment, with potential milestone payments of $494 million. The biotech is also eligible for royalties on any future sales.

“We are very excited to enter into this collaboration with Lilly, which showcases the power of our Convergence AI platform to rapidly identify novel targets for complex disease areas of high unmet need,” Fauna Bio CEO Ashley Zehnder said in a statement. “Lilly is a leader in obesity treatment, and our approach enables and accelerates discovery across different disease areas and modalities for our partners, who bring deep expertise in drug development.”

According to Fauna, its AI platform analyzes genomic data from 452 animal species and other animal tissue types to build a data set to integrate human data and animals that naturally resist disease to find drug targets. The platform can use the data to find in-house targets from 980 million model parameters.

“Fauna Bio brings a unique approach to discovering novel targets for obesity. We look forward to working with the Fauna Bio team to realize the value of their platform and discover more effective treatments for obese patients,” Ruth Gimeno, group vice president of diabetes, obesity, and cardiometabolic research at Lilly, said in a statement. 

Fauna came on the scene in 2021 with $9 million in seed funding for its AI platform, which LifeForce Capital led. The company secured a partnership with the University of Wisconsin OshKosh in 2022 for human therapeutics development using its platform and providing a scholarship to the university. 

Lilly has been in a dealmaking mood in 2023. The company extended the timeline in December to make a $1.4 billion acquisition of Point Biopharma and, in November, Lilly announced a $660 million deal with Japanese biotech PRISM BioLab to discover and develop small molecule inhibitors. 

Tyler Patchen is a staff writer at BioSpace. You can reach him at tyler.patchen@biospace.com. Follow him on LinkedIn.

Back to news