Nimbus Therapeutics and Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) have signed a research partnership and licence agreement to develop and market new therapies that activate a specific AMPK isoform to treat metabolic diseases.

Under the collaboration deal, Nimbus will develop isoform-selective small molecule AMPK activators to potentially treat several metabolic diseases using its computational drug discovery engine and structure-based drug design knowledge.

The company will lead the research activities, while Lilly will undertake the global development and marketing activities.

According to the agreement terms, Nimbus will receive up to $496m in payments, funding, and milestones throughout the research, development, and commercialisation stages.

Additionally, the company will receive tiered royalties from mid-single to low double-digits on worldwide net sales.

Nimbus chief scientific officer Peter Tummino said: “AMPK is a high-value target for the treatment of metabolic diseases, and drug developers have faced challenges for many years in identifying isoform-selective AMPK activators for tissue-specific therapeutic interventions.

“Nimbus has established a successful track record in developing and progressing highly-selective small molecules to the clinic against hard-to-interrogate targets, which is a demonstration of the power of our computational and structural approach to drug discovery.

“We are excited to partner with Lilly and benefit from their deep expertise in metabolic diseases, including diabetes, obesity and related disorders.”

The pipeline of the company includes several selective small-molecule compounds that target proteins which are recognised to be fundamental pathology drivers in human diseases.

These proteins have proven to be challenging for drug developers to tackle.

Lilly Diabetes Research and Clinical Investigation senior vice-president Ruth Gimeno said: “Developing therapies together that target AMPK helps address a critical need and is part of Lilly’s ongoing efforts to expand treatment options available to patients with metabolic disorders.”