IBJNews

Timing good for 2-in-1 biotech drugs

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Eli Lilly and Co.’s foray into combination drugs is well-timed because the company could take advantage of some the world’s most successful biotech drugs, which are about to see their patents expire.

Indianapolis-based Lilly announced June 28 that it will invest millions to double the size of its team trying to develop so-called multi-specific therapeutics—single biotech drugs that carry two medicines to treat a patient’s disease.

Such combinations could be two entirely new drugs, but more likely are mixtures of a known drug with one that’s unknown or even two that are known, said Jan Lundberg, president of Lilly Research Laboratories. They could also pair a biotech protein with a more traditionally produced small molecule drug.

Lundberg sees the potential for less resistance to medications and, possibly, fewer safety issues.

“We are expanding our capabilities to develop high-quality multi-specific agents, the combination of mechanisms of action for both large and small molecules into one therapy to better influence disease by addressing several relevant pathways and potentially also reducing resistance to treatment,” Lundberg told a meeting of investors in New York on June 30.

The known drugs could be products Lilly already has on the market, drugs from its pipeline, drugs that were tested and rejected before ever entering its pipeline, or even drugs from other companies that have gone off patent.

An example of that last possibility is Amgen Inc.’s Epogen, which treats anemia. The drug, which had worldwide sales last year of $2.5 billion, will see its U.S. patent expire in 2013.

Also, Roche’s blockbuster Rituxan, which treats non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis, will see its U.S. patent expire in 2015. A division of Switzerland-based Novartis is already testing a generic version of the $6-billion-a-year drug.

Such generic versions could be sold in the United States, after the 2010 health care reform law created the first pathway for approval of generic biotech drugs.

Lilly has no interest in making generic versions of biotech drugs. But it is interested in combining highly successful biotech agents, like Rituxan or other cancer drugs, with other drugs patients often take at the same time. Multiple medicines are common for patients with cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases.

Lilly plans to double the team of 35 to 40 people it has working on the project; half of them are in San Diego and the remainder in Indianapolis.

The company already has at least seven multi-specific drugs in the earliest stage of testing. It expects to put the first of them into human trials before year’s end.

Many other companies—including New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Maryland-based Emergent BioSolutions, Maryland-Based Zyngenia Inc. and Switzerland-based Molecular Partners AG—are studying multi-specific therapeutics.

But since so few have even started into human testing, it’s hard to know whether the idea will prove out.

“It is certainly possible that antibodies that bind to two targets will offer a combination of efficacy and safety that will establish new therapeutic standards,” said Bernard Munos, founder of the InnoThink Center for Research in Biomedical Innovation. The former adviser in Eli Lilly and Co.’s corporate strategy group, who now speaks broadly about reinvigorating innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, praised Lilly for “taking the plunge” on this strategy.

But, Munos added, these drugs also could yield worse side effects.

“It all depends upon the number of pathways in which these targets are involved, and how great a 'commotion' will be created in the cellular machinery by interfering with them.  There is no way to predict that,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  2. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

  3. Good try, Mr. Irwin, but I think we all know the primary motivation for pursuing legal action against the BMV is the HUGE FEES you and your firm expect to receive from the same people you claim to be helping ~ taxpayers! Almost all class action lawsuits end up with the victim receiving a pittance and the lawyers receiving a windfall.

  4. Fix the home life. We're not paying for your child to color, learn letters, numbers and possible self control. YOU raise your children...figure it out! We did. Then they'll do fine in elementary school. Weed out the idiots in public schools, send them well behaved kids (no one expects perfection) and watch what happens! Oh, and pray. A mom.

  5. To clarify, the system Cincinnati building is just a streetcar line which is the cheapest option for rail when you consider light rail (Denver, Portland, and Seattle.) The system (streetcar) that Cincy is building is for a downtown, not a city wide thing. With that said, I think the bus plan make sense and something I shouted to the rooftops about. Most cities with low density and low finances will opt for BRT as it makes more financial and logistical sense. If that route grows and finances are in place, then converting the line to a light rail system is easy as you already have the protected lanes in place. I do think however that Indy should build a streetcar system to connect different areas of downtown. This is the same thing that Tucson, Cincy, Kenosha WI, Portland, and Seattle have done. This allows for easy connections to downtown POI, and allows for more dense growth. Connecting the stadiums to the zoo, convention center, future transit center, and the mall would be one streetcar line that makes sense.

ADVERTISEMENT