Eli Lilly is shelling out up to $690 million for access to Hanmi Pharmaceutical’s experimental BTK inhibitor HM71224, which is being developed for the treatment of autoimmune and other diseases. 

The US drugmaker said it is paying $50 million upfront and up to $640 million in potential development, regulatory and sales milestones in return for worldwide rights to the molecule for all indications excluding China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea. 

Under the terms of the deal, which is still subject to US clearance and other normal closing conditions, Hanmi also stands to bank tiered double-digit royalty payments if the product makes it to market.

Having successfully completed Phase I proof-of-concept trials, the firms are hoping that HM71224 will help address the significant unmet need that still exists in many of the autoimmune diseases. The drug is now ready to enter Phase II, and will be tested in rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, lupus nephritis, Sjögren's syndrome, and other related conditions.

“We're highly encouraged by the potential of HM71224 to deliver an innovative, first-in-class treatment option,” said Thomas Bumol, who leads biotechnology and immunology research at Lilly.