This is the biggest check from a laboratory to a French start-up. Lyon Adocia company specializing in diabetes, has entered into an agreement with Lilly US firm to develop an ultrafast insulin. It will pocket up to $570 million, with an initial payment of $50 million, and receive royalties on sales. Publicly traded since 2012, the Action Adocia soared after the announcement of the marriage, jumping more than 50% in mid-day.
“This is a true recognition of the value of our medicines and our expertise,” says Gerard Soula, Adocia founder, who has had countless roundtrips to Indianapolis where Lilly is based. “The fact that Americans from Indianapolis cross the Atlantic to strike a deal with a French start-up also shows that it is not only in Boston that they have ideas,” jokes Mr Soula, who runs his company with his two sons, Remi and Olivier. A reference to the French giant Sanofi which installed some of its teams in Massachusetts.
Adocia had already signed a first alliance with Lilly in 2011, but the two laboratories had ended their collaboration in 2013. This “comeback” of the US is in the race for novelty which is launched by industry leaders, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Lilly. If insulin has been used since the 20s to treat diabetes, it has since been continuously improved to mimic the best naturally insulin produced by the pancreas to regulate sugar levels in the blood.
The Holy Grail
The laboratories have gradually abandoned human insulin (from genetic engineering, she replies that manufactured by the body), to develop insulin to the most sophisticated properties and so-called “analogous” in the jargon. Duration of action is variable and for the best result is often associated in the mind of patients with slow drugs as Lantus from Sanofi (a bestseller 7.5 billion) to NovoLog insulin as the Danish laboratory Novo Nordisk (whose sales reached $3 billion).
Insulin developed by and named Adocia BioChaperone belongs to this second class which patients must inject at mealtimes, with very precise timing. “Too soon, they become susceptible to the risk of hypoglycaemia when the drug is taken too late, insulin has no time to act and sugar levels in the blood increases sharply,” said Soula. The solution to this would be insulin “just on time” that patients can inject exactly when they need it, without having to program their meals. “Our technology can accelerate the speed of action of existing insulins, with shows results never seen before,” he says.
Insulin is the only option for type 1 diabetes (the hereditary form of the disease) and the ultimate remedy for type 2 diabetes patients (patients whose pancreatic function has been altered). Sales of the drug already earned $25 billion and the outlook is brilliant for laboratories. The number of diabetics is expected to increase from 382 million patients in 2013 to 592,000,000 in 2035, according to figures of Adocia. A quarter of treated from diabetics use insulin.