Eli Lilly In-Licenses Non-Opioid Drug from Centrexion in $997 Million-Plus Deal

Eli Lilly announced it has inked a license agreement with Centrexion Therapeutics to acquire the exclusive global rights to CNTX-0290.

Eli Lilly announced it has inked a license agreement with Centrexion Therapeutics to acquire the exclusive global rights to CNTX-0290. The drug is a small molecule somatostatin receptor type 4 (SSTR4) agonist being evaluated in Phase I as a possible non-opioid therapy for chronic pain.

Under the terms of the deal, Lilly is paying Centrexion $47.5 million up front. Centrexion may be eligible for up to $575 million in various milestone payments. If the drug is successfully commercialized, Centrexion is eligible for up to $375 million in sales milestones and tiered royalties ranging from the high-single to low-double digits. The two companies might also choose to co-promote the drug in the U.S.

“Lilly is committed to developing new medicines for people struggling with chronic pain,” stated Mark Mintun, vice president of pain and neurodegeneration research at Lilly. “We are pleased to license this early-phase molecule from Centrexion, and look forward to developing it further as a potential non-opioid treatment option for multiple pain conditions.”

Centrexion focuses on developing and commercializing novel, non-opioid and non-addictive therapies for chronic pain. On March 27, Centrexion, which is headquartered in Boston, announced it was publishing research in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology that described data from its Phase II TRIUMPH clinical trial of CNTX-4975 (trans-capsaicin) injection for the treatment of moderate to severe knee pain associated with osteoarthritis (OA).

In the trial, a single 1 mg intra-articular injection of the drug resulted in a significant decrease in knee OA pain through 12 and 24 weeks. Side effects were similar to those seen in placebo. The publication also detailed the company’s proprietary cooling procedure technique that is designed to give patients comfort and enabled Centrexion to conduct blinded clinical trials.

CNTX-4975 is Centrexion’s most advanced compound. It is an investigational synthetic, ultra-pure intra-articular injection of trans-capsaicin designed to be administered directly into the joint. It selectively and locally targets and disrupts the signaling of pain-sensing nerve fibers. It was granted Fast Track Designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 2018 for pain associated with knee OA.

In 2016, Centrexion acquired CNTX-0290, as well as CNTX-6970 and CNTX-6016 from Boehringer Ingelheim. At the time, company chief executive officer Jeffrey Kindler said, “The acquisition of three of Boehringer Ingelheim’s most promising pain treatment candidates strengthens our existing proprietary pipeline of therapies based on our patented and exclusive injectable trans-capsaicin. With a diversified and rapidly advancing pipeline and an experienced management team, Centrexion is poised to redefine the pain treatment market and transform the lives of people living with chronic pain.”

Kindler is former chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer. The company’s chairman of the board is Sol Barer, former chairman and chief executive officer of Celgene. The company was founded in November 2013.

In a statement regarding the Lilly licensing deal, Kindler said, “This collaboration marks an important step for Centrexion in the progress of its pipeline and demonstrates our ability to identify promising early-stage assets working at new targets for chronic pain and efficiently take them through to development.”

He added, “Lilly’s robust pain management portfolio and successful track record developing and commercializing novel therapies make them an ideal company to advance CNTX-0290. Importantly, this agreement aims to efficiently deliver an innovative new treatment to patients that can address the significant unmet medical need of chronic pain.”