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140 Lilly Scientists Have New Base For Designing Cancer Drugs

140 Lilly Scientists Have New Base For Designing Cancer drugs [The Indianapolis Star]

From Indianapolis Star (IN) (September 29, 2010)

Sept. 29--When it comes to finding new breakthroughs for cancer, it just might matter where you hang your shingle.

Eli Lilly and Co. is taking that approach by setting up shop for its oncology-discovery operations near a major medical school in New York City.

The Indianapolis drug maker said Tuesday it has moved about 140 oncology researchers from the SoHo neighborhood into brand-new, leased space along Manhattan’s East Side medical corridor, just north of Bellevue Hospital and adjacent to New York University’s Langone Medical Center.

Lilly is the anchor tenant in the first building in the Alexandria Center for Life Science campus. The campus also will house numerous other biotech and life-science firms.

"You could take a snowball and hit NYU Medical Center from our front door," said John H. Johnson, president of Lilly’s oncology division. "We hope that being this close to other research facilities will boost our collaboration and help us make more important discoveries."

In the past few years, Lilly has poured tens of billions into oncology, including last year’s $6.5 billion acquisition of cancer biotech firm ImClone Systems, maker of cancer drug Erbitux. That acquisition was the largest in Lilly’s 133-year history.

Today, Lilly has 31 potential new cancer medicines under evaluation, accounting for about one-third of its pipeline, up from three cancer compounds a few years ago.

More than 1,500 Americans die of cancer each day, making it the second-leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease.

Lilly is betting much of its future on the high-risk, high-reward strategy of launching cancer drugs. If it succeeds, the Indianapolis company could reap tens of billions of dollars in new annual sales and lift itself to a new level in oncology, one of the fastest-growing areas of pharmaceutical drugs.

That also might help Lilly overcome the erosion of billions of dollars in annual revenues that are set to disappear during the next seven years as the company’s leading drugs lose their patent protection and face generic competition.

Drug makers rang up about $50 billion in sales of oncology drugs in 2008, accounting for nearly 17 percent of the pharmaceutical industry’s total sales.

Sales of cancer drugs are expected to grow at nearly double the rate of the worldwide drug market and could reach $80 billion by 2012, according to IMS Health, which tracks industry drug sales.

But if the opportunity is large, so are the risks. Only 8 percent of cancer drugs submitted to the Food and Drug Administration are approved. For all other diseases, the rate is about 20 percent.

Lilly will occupy 90,000 square feet of laboratory and office space in the New York building. The Lilly employees formerly worked several miles away, in the SoHo neighborhood.

Lilly has two other biotech centers in the U.S., one in San Diego and the other at its corporate headquarters in Indianapolis. The biotech center in New York is the only one specifically dedicated to discovering potential new cancer medicines.

Before the ImClone acquisition, Lilly was a fairly small player in oncology, with just two drugs, Alimta for lung cancer and Gemzar as a chemotherapy drug for various cancers.

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Posted: September 2010