UK-based biopharmaceutical firm Sitryx has entered into a licensing and research agreement with Eli Lilly to develop new disease-modifying drugs.

Focused on immuno-oncology and immuno-inflammation indications, the five-year partnership will explore up to four preclinical targets discovered by Sitryx.

The targets are expected to help develop drugs for autoimmune diseases.

Sitryx will carry out drug discovery, while Lilly will fund and perform clinical development and commercial activities.

Under the deal, Lilly will receive an exclusive, global licence from Sitryx to develop and commercialise up to four new therapeutics that target immunometabolism, including two of Sitryx’s lead programmes.

Eli Lilly immunology vice-president Ajay Nirula said: “As Lilly seeks to develop new and unique medicines for people suffering with autoimmune diseases, we are actively exploring a variety of scientific approaches both in our own labs and with external partners.

“Regulating the metabolism of immune cells is a promising approach to treating these diseases, and we look forward to working with the talented researchers at Sitryx to advance their novel immunometabolism targets.”

As part of the deal, Lilly will make an upfront payment of $50m, along with a $10m equity investment in Sitryx.

Furthermore, Sitryx may receive development milestones of up to $820m, commercialisation milestones and royalties on future sales.

Sitryx CEO Neil Weir said: “We are excited to partner with Lilly, one of the global leaders in the field of immunology, to pursue the discovery of novel targets and the development of innovative therapies for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases in the fast-emerging area of immunometabolism.

“This agreement is transformational for Sitryx and further validates the strength of our scientific expertise and that of our Founder network and the potential for Sitryx to become a leader in this field.”

The companies noted that licensing and research collaboration is subject to customary closing conditions.