Canada’s Cardiome Pharma Corp has signed an exclusive agreement with US major Eli Lilly which gives the former rights to an early-stage compound for cardiovascular disease.

Lilly’s LY458202, or GED-aPC, is an engineered analog of recombinant human activated protein C with enhanced anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic and strong binding to endothelial protein C receptor properties, and the company says it has broad potential across multiple indications.

A 46-person Phase I single-dose placebo-controlled safety study in healthy volunteers for GED-aPC has already been completed. Initially, Cardiome will develop it for cardiogenic shock, a life-threatening form of acute circulatory failure due to cardiac dysfunction, which is a leading cause of death for patients hospitalised following a heart attack. It was noted that in 2006, more than 870,000 people suffered a heart attack in the USA, and approximately 6% of them developed cardiogenic shock. Mortality rates are high, ranging from 40% to 70%, and there are currently no approved drugs to treat this indication.

Under the terms of the deal, Cardiome will pay Lilly $20 million upfront, plus future development milestones of up to $40 million. Lilly is entitled to royalty payments if the molecule is commercialised and its new Vancouver-based partner noted clinical costs for the compound will be about $5 million in 2007.