San Diego, Calif.-based biotech company Blacksmith Medicines announced on Friday it had secured a multimillion-dollar seed funding deal from Eli Lilly and Company and has entered into a research collaboration with the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant to advance human metalloenzyme targets.
Blacksmith Medicines is a spin-out firm from Forge Therapeutics, a company focused on the development of novel antibiotics. Back in 2017, Forge developed the BLACKSMITH chemistry platform, which comprises “deep knowledge” of metalloenzymes, bioinorganic and medicinal chemistry as well as library of proprietary metal-binding fragment pharmacophores (MBPs). These MBPs were developed to offer selective starting-off points for inhibitor therapies. The independent Blacksmith Medicines is currently developing treatments that target metal-dependent enzymes, which the company says provides “several distinct advantages over traditional drug discovery approaches.”
Eli Lilly sees promise in this young company, at least enough to offer an upfront payment and investments in exchange for a convertible note. Under terms of the investment agreement, Blacksmith Medicines will be eligible to receive up to $60 million per target in future research, development and commercialization milestones. The deal mentions Blacksmith Medicines could receive up to a total of $300 million. Aside from Eli Lilly, existing investors in Blacksmith Medicines include Evotec A.G., MP Healthcare Partners, MagnaSci Ventures and Alexandria Venture Investments.
“We are excited to launch Blacksmith Medicines with our investors and enter this research collaboration with Lilly, who collectively share our commitment to advancing novel chemistry approaches to create new medicines for patients in need,” according to a statement made by Zachary Zimmerman, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Blacksmith Medicines. “With the creation of Blacksmith, we are now able to expand our metalloenzyme platform into other therapeutic areas outside of anti-infectives, deepening our expertise and creating increased value for our shareholders, strategic partners and patients. We look forward to broadening the reach of our technology as we focus our efforts on identifying novel targets for immuno-oncology and inflammatory diseases.”
Blacksmith Medicines is added to a long and growing list of pharma and biotech firms Eli Lilly is funding, suggesting the Indianapolis pharma company has no plans of slowing down its investment reach. Yesterday, leading early-stage European biopharma venture capital firm BioGeneration Ventures announced Eli Lilly and Novo Holdings contributed to a €140 million ($170 million) financing round focused on entrepreneurial and therapeutic innovation. Eli Lilly and Novo Holdings joins current investors Bristol Myers Squibb, the European Investment Fund, Industriens Pension, KfW Capital and Schroder Adveq.
In December 2020, Eli Lilly also agreed to a reportedly $1.04 billion acquisition deal with gene therapy company Prevail Therapeutics. Following the announcement of the acquisition, shares in Prevail Therapeutics rose more than 84% in premarket trading. The deal states Eli Lilly will pay $22.50 per share for an aggregate of up to $880 million. There is also a “contingent value right” inked into the agreement worth up to $4 per share.
In another financing round, Eli Lilly contributed to an $87 million Series C financing for Foster City, Calif.-based Terns Pharmaceuticals. Other investors in the deal included OrbiMed Advisors, Lilly Asia Ventures, Vivo Capital, Samsara Capital and Suvretta Capital Management.