Topas Therapeutics GmbH (Topas), a Hamburg-based private company, has signed a multi-year agreement with Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) to collaborate in the field of antigen-specific tolerance induction with an initial focus on external antigens thought to induce inflammation and/or autoimmune disease.

Topas will be responsible for conducting preclinical proof-of-principle studies in collaboration with Lilly to generate drug candidates.

Under the terms of the agreement, Lilly has an option for all candidates produced under the collaboration for in-licensing and further development.

Topas will receive R&D funding and participate in the future success of any compounds in-licensed by Lilly. Financial details of the collaboration are not being disclosed.

Topas’ technology platform induces antigen-specific immune tolerance by harnessing the liver’s natural immunology capabilities; peptide-loaded nanoparticles are selectively targeted towards liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs).

LSECs are one of the body’s premier sites to induce tolerance against bloodborne antigens by generating peptide-specific regulatory T cells.

Timm Jessen, CEO of Topas Therapeutics, said: “We are excited to be working with Lilly to generate drug candidates using our proprietary technology. We expect this work to support the value of our approach in inducing tolerance also against external antigens. Additionally, the interest from such an important pharmaceutical company in our technology, we believe, supports the strong commercial potential of our work.”

Thomas F. Bumol, PhD, Senior Vice President of Biotechnology and Immunology Research at Lilly, added: “Lilly is committed to be an innovation leader in immunology. Topas has a very novel approach to immune tolerance induction, which we would like to see successfully applied to certain disease relevant antigens. We look forward to working together with Topas on their unique platform.”