Eli Lilly (LLY -1.05%) is boosting its pipeline through a deal with privately held Sitryx, a company focused on developing drugs that could treat cancer and inflammatory diseases by regulating the metabolism of immune cells.

All of Sitryx's projects are still in the preclinical stage. The company was founded in 2018 by a group of well-known immunology researchers, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK -0.34%) contributed some technology and other assistance as well.

"Regulating the metabolism of immune cells is a promising approach to treating these diseases, and we look forward to working with the talented researchers at Sitryx to advance their novel immunometabolism targets," Ajay Nirula, vice president of immunology at Eli Lilly, said in a statement.

Scientist working in a lab

Image source: Getty Images.

Sitryx and Eli Lilly will undertake a five-year research collaboration with the goal of developing four drugs. The pharma giant has already picked Sitryx's two lead projects as the first two drugs to license. Sitryx will be responsible for drug discovery, while Eli Lilly will pay for and manage their clinical development and marketing.

Eli Lilly is paying Sitryx $50 million up front and making a $10 million equity investment in the company. Sitryx is eligible for up to $820 million for reaching development milestones, and could also get commercialization milestones and royalties in the mid- to high-single-digit percentage range if the drugs from the collaboration are eventually approved by regulators.