German biotechnology company Topas Therapeutics has signed a multi-year agreement with Eli Lilly and Company to jointly work on antigen-specific tolerance induction, with an initial focus on external antigens thought to induce inflammation and / or autoimmune disease.

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Under the deal, the two companies will collaborate to carry out pre-clinical proof-of-principle studies for developing new drug candidates.

The agreement provides Lilly with an option for all drug candidates generated under the collaboration for in-licensing and further development.

The technology platform used by Topas Therapeutics induces antigen-specific immune tolerance by controlling the liver’s natural immunology capabilities, and peptide-loaded nanoparticles are selectively targeted towards liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs).

LSECs are one of the premier sites of the body that induce tolerance against blood-borne antigens by generating peptide-specific regulatory T-cells.

Topas Therapeutics chief executive officer Timm Jessen said: “We are excited to be working with Lilly to generate drug candidates using our proprietary technology.

"We are excited to be working with Lilly to generate drug candidates using our proprietary technology."

“We expect this work to support the value of our approach in inducing tolerance also against external antigens.”

As part of the collaboration, the German company will receive research and development (R&D) funding.

Eli Lilly biotechnology and immunology research senior vice-president Dr Thomas Bumol said: “Topas has a very novel approach to immune tolerance induction, which we would like to see successfully applied to certain disease relevant antigens.

“We look forward to working together with Topas on their unique platform.”

Image: Eli Lilly and Company's global headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, US. Photo: courtesy of Guanaco152003 / Wikipedia.