China-based Yabao Pharmaceuticals announces partnership with Lilly to co-develop phase 1 glucokinase activator (GKA) LY2608204 – July 13, 2014

China-based Yabao Pharmaceutical Group announced last week that it has entered a partnership with Lilly to co-develop Lilly’s investigational glucokinase activator (GKA) LY2608204 in China. This is the first concrete news we have heard on this compound, and we imagine that we might see it appear more explicitly on Lilly’s pipeline in the months to come. Yabao will initially be responsible for funding and implementing a development plan in China, with Lilly retaining future buy-in options in China and full rights elsewhere. As a reminder, glucokinase is an insulin-sensing enzyme expressed in beta cells and the liver, among other areas, and glucokinase activation could exert an anti-hyperglycemic effect by both promoting insulin secretion and decreasing hepatic glucose production. Lilly completed phase 1 trials of LY2608204 in the US in 2011, but there has been no further development visible on since then except for a withdrawn phase 2 study. There have been a number of high-profile discontinuations of GKA candidates in recent years, including candidates from Roche, Merck, and Amgen – some discontinuations were presumably due to hypoglycemia, which newer liver-specific candidates might be able to avoid. The current GKA competitive landscape, which includes Pfizer’s phase 2 PF-04937319, TransTech’s phase 2 liver-selective TTP399, Daiichi Sankyo’s phase 1 DS-7309, Zydus Cadilla’s phase 1 ZYGK1, Hua Medicine’s phase 1 HMS5552, and Ligand’s preclinical liver-specific GKA program, is a testament to the significant continued level of interest in this novel drug class.