News Feature | July 10, 2014

Lilly And Yabao Ink Agreement To Co-Develop Diabetes Therapy

By Estel Grace Masangkay

Chinese pharmaceutical company Yabao Pharmaceutical and Eli Lilly announced that they have entered into a strategic partnership to co-develop Lilly’s lead diabetes treatment.

LY2608204 is a glucokinase activator (GKA) undergoing pre-clinical development by Eli Lilly. Glucokinase activators promote insulin secretion while decreasing glucose production of the liver. This two-fold action affords glucokinase activators an advantage over other anti-diabetic agents due to its potent antihyperglycemic effects, which have shown to be effective even in people who are unresponsive to other oral treatments. The company has recently completed Phase I studies for the drug in the U.S.

Under the terms of the agreement, Yabao acquires the rights to develop and market LY2608204 in China. Lilly will retain rights to the compound in all markets outside China. The partners will work together on a strategic development plan for the drug in China in which Yabao will fund and conduct all development while Lilly will gain a future buy-in option for the Chinese market. No financial terms of the agreement were disclosed by either company.

Dr. Peng Wang, President of R&D at Yabao Pharmaceutical, said that the company is pleased to advance the program for the compound in collaboration with Eli Lilly. “Lilly's GKA is an optimized molecule with potential to be best-in-class… This ground-breaking partnership with Lilly is an important sign of Yabao's growing commitment to partner the best science and leverage Yabao's strong clinical and regulatory capabilities to bring novel pharmaceuticals to patients suffering from serious diseases in China.”

China currently has the world’s largest diabetes epidemic with 11.6 percent of its adult population afflicted with the disease in 2013. This figure stands in stark contrast with 1980’s records, when diabetes prevalence in the country was below 1 percent. Researchers attribute diabetes’ rising incidence in China to widespread obesity, an increasingly westernized diet, sedentary job trends, increased car travel, and indulgence of the lone child most families are allowed to raise.

The increasing concern over diabetes is certainly on the drug company’s radar. Indeed, recently, Lilly revealed that it is currently working on commercializing several late-stage diabetes drugs in the near future. In an interview with FOX Business host Maria Bartiromo, Lilly CEO John Lechleiter said, “Growth [over the next 5-10 years] is going to come from our diabetes business. Type 2 diabetes unfortunately is a global epidemic.”

The company also took part in the 74th American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions with its presentation of clinical data for diabetes drugs including empagliflozin and dulaglutide.