Eli Lilly has sold enzastaurin, a cancer treatment it abandoned development on, to San Diego-based Denovo Biopharma.

Lilly developed enzastaurin in a variety of indications, and finally gave up on the compound after a Phase III trial for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) did not meet the primary endpoint in the maintenance setting.  However, “a meaningful subset of patients showed significantly improved progression-free survival”, privately-owned Denovo says, adding that it intends to conduct “genetic analysis to identify biomarkers that are related to this outcome”.

Denovo has acquired all rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise enzastaurin globally, including transfer of all intellectual property and other rights. Financial terms have not been disclosed.  

Enzastaurin, a kinase inhibitor of the PKC beta and AKT pathways, has been studied in more than 3,000 patients and has received orphan drug designation from the regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. Denovo chief operating officer Michael Haller noted that this is the “first late-stage asset acquired from a premier pharmaceutical company”, which comes with “a high-quality data package”.

He added that “our biomarker discovery efforts take only a few months, so when combined with Lilly's existing data package, we should be able to rapidly initiate a biomarker validation clinical trial for the original indication (DLBCL)”. Dr Haller added that “we are actively seeking to acquire additional drugs in late-stage development where we can utilise our biomarker discovery platform to personalise and advance other potential treatments in similar fashion”.