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Lilly pays $50M-plus for rights to testosterone lotion

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Eli Lilly and Co., the maker of the impotence drug Cialis, bought exclusive rights from Acrux Ltd. to an underarm testosterone lotion called Axiron for men with limited sex drive due to low levels of the hormone.

Indianapolis-based Lilly will pay Acrux of West Melbourne, Australia, a $50 million license fee, plus $3 million when manufacturing assets are transferred, the companies said Monday in a statement. Acrux may earn $87 million more if U.S. regulators approve the drug for marketing, $195 million in commercial milestone payments as well as royalty payments on future sales, the companies said.

Acrux filed a marketing application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January in an effort to enter a global market for testosterone therapies valued at more than $1 billion a year. More than a third of American men older than 45 years have low testosterone, doctors found in a 2006 study.  The condition can sap sex drive and cause impotence, osteoporosis and memory loss, according to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“The addition of Axiron reinforces Lilly’s commitment to men’s health and, if approved, could provide a new treatment option for men suffering from low testosterone,” said Bryce Carmine, president of Lilly’s Bio-Medicines.

Results of a clinical trial released in September showed Acrux’s lotion, called Axiron, normalized testosterone levels in 84 percent of men after four months.

Acrux, which has never made a profit, was spun off from Monash University a decade ago and now has the chance to make a profit and provide dividends to shareholders, Ross Dobinson, the company’s chairman, said in a statement released Monday.

The company’s agreement with Lilly is “believed to be the largest licensing deal ever stuck by an Australian biotech company,” Dobinson said.

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