Lilly to boost biotechnology capabilities

Investment focuses on cutting-edge research into multi-specific therapeutics

Eli Lilly is to expand its existing biotechnology capabilities with a multi-million dollar investment that will further fuel research and development of multi-specific therapeutics, in which two or more distinct mechanisms of action are engineered in one molecule with the goal of providing enhanced efficacy with an improved safety profile.

Lilly already has several multi-specific therapeutics in preclinical development, including a co-agonist peptide being studied as a potential treatment for diabetes that is expected to enter clinical development by the end of this year. Lilly is hiring additional biochemists and biologists to further support its important work in multi-specific therapeutics. These new employees will work at Lilly's biotechnology facilities in Indianapolis and San Diego.

Multi-specific therapeutics are different from combination therapies. With combination therapies, molecules are administered separately to hit two or more targets that contribute to disease. With multi-specific therapeutics, two or more mechanisms of action are combined with molecular biology into a single molecule to hit these same targets. Scientists believe that they can design these novel molecules with protein engineering strategies that maximise therapeutic benefit while also minimising or even removing some side-effects.

‘In many therapeutic areas – for instance, diabetes and oncology – one medicine isn't enough for patients to manage their disease,’ said Dr Tom Bumol, vice president of biotechnology discovery research at Lilly. ‘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, healthcare professionals and payers.’

Lilly is utilising its extensive protein engineering expertise to make these multi-specific therapeutics function in a way that most benefits patients. This protein engineering expertise has been built internally in its Indianapolis biotechnology research group and through earlier acquisitions of Applied Molecular Evolution (AME). Lilly is also analysing its historic library of protein and antibody assets, a compilation of molecules from decades of research in Lilly Research Laboratories, AME and ImClone, to determine their potential to be engineered into multi-specific therapeutics.

‘We are building on our strong and successful biotechnology platform, which has delivered an exciting mid- to late-stage biotechnology pipeline,’ said Dr Jan M. Lundberg, Lilly's executive vice president of science and technology, and president of Lilly Research Laboratories. ‘Our further investment in multi-specific therapeutics underscores Lilly's commitment to the field of biotechnology and its importance to providing improved outcomes for individual patients.’

Companies