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Business & Regulation Small Molecules, Drug Discovery, Business Practice

The Lilly and the Kumquat

Eli Lilly’s R&D group, Loxo Oncology, and San Diego-based Kumquat Biosciences have announced a deal for collaboration geared toward the discovery, development, and commercialization of small molecules that stimulate tumor-specific immune responses.

In the 1990s, Kumquat’s CEO Yi Liu was considered a pioneer of KRAS drug development. He subsequently co-founded Kuro Oncology, which has conducted significant work on the investigational cancer drug tipifarnib. In a Lilly press release, Loxo CEO Jacob Van Naarden said, “Using small molecule inhibitors to target specific tumor antigens in complex with the immune machinery presents a unique opportunity to stimulate an enhanced tumor-specific immune response.”

The collaboration could allow Kumquat to receive over US$2 billion in milestone payments, while granting Lilly the option to select a number of drug candidates for commercialization anywhere in the world except Greater China – an informal geographic region usually considered to include Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. 

Kumquat’s China connections are strong. Yi Liu and the Chief Operation Officer Pingda Ren both hold undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from top Chinese universities: Peking and Tsinghua in Beijing, and Fudan in Shanghai. Two of Kuquat’s five investors – Sequoia Capital China and Lilly Asia Ventures – are based in the PRC, while two of the five offices owned by investor Orbimed are located in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The press release fuzzily described the collaboration’s lifespan as “multi-year” – and did not offer specific details about potential lead drugs, and so we’ll be keeping an ear out for any further announcements from the partnership.

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About the Author

Angus Stewart

Angus is Associate Editor of The Medicine Maker

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