Lilly Plans to Expand Biotech R&D

From Indianapolis Star (IN) (June 29, 2011)


June 29--Eli Lilly and Co. wants some of its new medicines to do more work, attacking difficult diseases such as cancer and diabetes from several directions at once.

The Indianapolis drug maker said Tuesday it plans to invest several million dollars to expand its biotech research and development efforts for new medicines with more than one mechanism of action to treat diseases that require more than one medicine.

Lilly said the investment would not result in new buildings or laboratories but the hiring of about 40 biochemists, biologists and other specialists.

About 20 of the new scientists will work at Lilly's biotech complex in Indianapolis, which the company dedicated in 2008 as a hub of research for the next generation of biopharmaceuticals for diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. The other half will work in Lilly's other major biotech research center, in San Diego.

Biopharmaceuticals use or redesign living organisms, such as proteins and antibodies, as building blocks of new drugs. Traditional chemistry makes drugs from nonliving molecules.

"We really have deep expertise in protein engineering and protein manufacturing," said Tom Bumol, vice president of biotechnology discovery research at Lilly.

Already, Lilly is one of the world's largest biotech players, with biotech drugs such as Byetta for diabetes and Forteo for osteoporosis accounting for nearly one-quarter of its sales. But the company has said in recent years it wants to become a biotech powerhouse.

The announcement was made at the BIO International Convention in Washington, a huge biotechnology conference.

In some therapeutic areas, one medicine often isn't enough to manage a disease, Lilly said. The company is trying to develop new products in which one medicine can provide the benefits of two.

That's different from "combination therapies," in which different compounds are administered separately to hit two or more targets that contribute to a disease. Multispecific therapeutics use two or more mechanisms of action in a single molecule to hit the same targets.

The company has one such drug in development, a compound for treating diabetes that is set to begin clinical trials by the end of the year.

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Posted: June 2011


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