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Lilly plans more investment in two-in-one drugs

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Eli Lilly and Co.’s newest plan for breakthrough biotech drugs relies on an old business strategy: package deals.

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker on Tuesday plans to announce a new multimillion-dollar investment to develop drugs that act like two medicines in one.

Lilly did not disclose the amount of money it is spending on the initiative. The company is unveiling the plans at a convention in Washington, D.C.

The idea is to engineer the DNA of proteins so that one molecule can hit two or more targets in a patient’s cells. Lilly says it already has used protein engineering to develop several of these multi-specific therapeutics. Now it wants to move them into human testing.

Lilly hopes the new drugs also could be engineered to produce fewer side effects to patients.

To put the effort into action, Lilly intends to hire as many as 40 workers between its biotechnology center in Indianapolis and its molecular engineering unit in San Diego. About 35-40 employees now work on the two-in-one drug initiative.

Also, scientists will do a review of Lilly’s library of proteins developed in previous decades of research—most of which were never brought to market—to see if any could be good candidates to be engineered into a multi-specific drug.

Lilly is aiming at some high-dollar diseases, mainly diabetes and cancer, where patients often have to take multiple medications to treat their disease.

“With our extensive biologics experience, we can now engineer new therapies where one medicine essentially provides the benefit of two. This could produce real benefits for patients, health care professionals and payors,” said Tom Bumol, Lilly’s vice president of biotechnology discovery research.

 

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