Lilly buys California diabetes biotech in deal potentially worth $1 billion

Eli Lilly and Co. said Wednesday morning it is buying a California-based biotech company that is developing technology that can sense sugar levels in the blood and automatically activate medication as needed throughout the day.

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker said the deal to buy Protomer Technologies could be worth up to $1 billion if the technology meets certain milestones. Lilly did not say how much it was paying up front in cash.

Lilly previously owned 14% of the small, private biotech as the lead player in an investment fund.

Protomer, founded in 2015, is engineering protein therapeutics that can sense molecular changes in the body to help treat diabetes. The technology uses therapeutic proteins that can change doses and target delivery based on the body’s chemistry and glucose levels.

Lilly has a broad portfolio of diabetes medicines, and is one of the global leaders in producing insulin, along with Sanofi of France and Novo Nordisk of Denmark.

“Protomer’s glucose-sensing insulin program, based on its proprietary molecular engineering of protein sensors platform, is showing significant promise and Lilly is excited to enhance our diabetes pipeline with the company’s innovative technology,” Ruth Gimeno, Lilly’s vice president of diabetes research and clinical investigation, said in written remarks.

Lilly stock edged down 0.07% in premarket trading Wednesday to $235.14.

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