Eli Lilly said it will partner with the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute to discover and develop immunotherapies against immunological diseases. The value of the collaboration was not disclosed.

Lilly said the partners would study potential new therapies that target multiple immune checkpoint modulators for the treatment of immunological diseases such as lupus, Sjögren's Syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune disorders.

Lilly said the collaboration with Sanford-Burnham is intended to combine the company’s expertise in biotechnology and immunology with the institute’s knowledge about how cell communication pathways control the development of lymphocytes, innate and adaptive immune responses, and inflammation, with a focus on immune checkpoint networks.

“By combining the deep knowledge of human biology and disease mechanisms among Sanford-Burnham scientists, in particular our expertise in the field of checkpoint regulators in the immune system, and Lilly's leadership position in the development of biologics and large molecules, we are forging the path to develop the next generation of transformative treatments for autoimmune disease,” Sanford-Burnham CEO Perry Nisen, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement.

The research collaboration will be co-chaired by Thomas F. Bumol, Ph.D., svp, biotechnology and immunology research at Lilly, and Carl Ware, Ph.D., director of Sanford-Burnham’s Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases Center.

Lilly hopes the collaboration will add to its pipeline immunology, one of the pharma’s research areas of focus. As of April 17, Lilly’s immunology pipeline consisted of seven molecules—of which two molecules with a total five indications are in Phases II or higher, according to the company’s website.

One of the compounds is under administrative review: Ixekizumab (LY2439821), a biologic neutralizer of interleukin-17A (IL-17) indicated for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. Earlier this year, Lilly submitted Ixekizumab to the FDA for approval, and also said the compound was statistically superior to placebo in active psoriatic arthritis, based on the proportion of patients achieving an ACR 20 response in a Phase III trial.

The company’s other Phase III immunology compound is Baricitinib (LY3009104), a JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor being studied for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Two pivotal trials, RA-BEACON and RA-BUILD, showed Baricitinib to have met its primary endpoint of improved ACR20 response compared to placebo after 12 weeks of treatment.

Lilly’s pipeline includes one new chemical entity, a BTK inhibitor indicated for  rheumatoid arthritis (RA); and biologics for Crohn’s disease, lupus, RA, and ulcerative colitis.

For Lilly, today’s announcement marks the second launch of an immunotherapy collaboration in less than a week. On Monday, the pharma giant and BioNTech said they will partner on discovering new cancer immunotherapies—an alliance that could generate more than $360 million for the German biotech.

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