Eli Lilly is making a move into enzyme relacement therapy and will acquire Alnara Pharmaceuticals, getting hold of the latter’s late-stage cystic fibrosis treatment liprotamase.

No financial details of the deal have been disclosed but Lilly is buying a potentially valuable product in liprotamase, a non-porcine pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) which is under review by the US Food and Drug Administration for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Causes of EPI include CF,which affects 30,000 children and adults in the USA and nearly 100,000 people worldwide. Approximately 90% of CF patients receive PERT “to improve nutritional status and bowel-related symptoms related to pancreatic insufficiency,” Lilly noted.

Bryce Carmine, president of Lilly BioMedicines, said the acquisition provides the firm with “a promising entry into enzyme replacement therapy,an area with unmet medical needs as well as opportunities for novel compounds that give patients additional treatment options”. He added that the new buy “has been very successful in the development of liprotamase, as indicated by its recent submission to the FDA. and we look forward to partnering with Alnara's experts during the regulatory review process."

Alexey Margolin, chief executive at Alnara, which is privately-held, said Lilly's “deep expertise in the US pharmaceutical business, including regulatory affairs…created a natural fit and could allow for opportunities in markets beyond CF”. His company noted that if approved, liprotamase will allow many patients to use “significantly fewer pills compared to current treatment options”and ecause it is not derived from a porcine source, it could provide the added benefit for patients of reduction in the risk of viral exposure.

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Alnara was founded in 2008 and recently secured $35 million in a second-round venture capital financing. Last October it entered into a manufacturing agreement for liprotamase with Lonza.

The Alnara acquisition is representative of the type of deal Lilly is looking at. The Indianapolis-headquartered group has repeatedly said it is not interested in mega-mergers.