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US pharma company Eli Lilly is acquiring a global license on a pain drug candidate from Confo Therapeutics, a Flanders-based biotech firm developing medicines based on llama antibodies. Confo was founded in 2015 as a spin-off of VIB, Flanders’ strategic research center for life sciences, and VUB, one of Flanders’ universities. Provided milestones are met, the deal with Eli Lilly may total up to USD 630 million.

Boosting the odds

Since March 2022, a drug candidate from Confo Therapeutics for the treatment of pain caused by nerve damage, such as from diabetes or chemotherapy, has been going through the first phase of clinical development. To increase the chances of the drug candidate, known as CFTX-1554, Eli Lilly will oversee the further development beyond the initial research phase.

The deal provides Confo Therapeutics with USD 40 million immediately. In the years to come, up to USD 590 million can be added to this initial amount, provided that the drug candidate achieves predetermined development milestones.

This is a fantastic recognition and milestone for Confo Therapeutics. Eli Lilly is one of the few pharma companies that invests in pain medication, possesses a lot of experience with market introductions and has the machinery for clinical trials.

Cedric Ververken
CEO of Confo Therapeutics

Innovative approach

Eli Lilly is particularly interested in Confo Therapeutics’ innovative approach. “Certain pain medications, such as opioids, act on the brain and specifically on those areas that drive addiction,” Ververken explains. “They fight pain very well but come with many side effects. Our drug candidate, on the other hand, is not addictive because it acts peripherally. It does not penetrate the brain and spinal cord.”

Fragments of llama antibodies

In its search for new medicines, Confo Therapeutics uses fragments of llama antibodies as tools to develop therapies that act on GPCRs, a type of protein found on human cells. “The human genome has hundreds of types of such proteins,” says Ververken. “These proteins transmit external signals to cells and play a role in numerous diseases.”

“There are already many approved drugs, including for the treatment of diabetes and obesity, that act on GPCR targets,” he adds. “We at Confo Therapeutics are aiming at targets for which no treatments yet exist. With our drug candidate, we are focusing on one specific target, which can indirectly cause pain perception to be reduced.”

Unlocking Flanders’ potential in life sciences & health

Confo Therapeutics is just one of numerous innovative forces that make Flanders’ business and research ecosystem for life sciences & health so successful. Want to unravel this ecosystem in a virtual yet interactive way? Head to the Flanders360 platform and discover 300+ successful companies, universities, R&D centers, incubators and other players active in Flanders’ life sciences & health industry.

Check out our industry overview to learn more about the available tax, legal and other incentives for establishing your life sciences & health hub in Flanders.

Reported by
De Tijd newspaper

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