Aiming to shed last-place rep, Eli Lilly touts its PhIII pipeline and promises a faster game in R&D

Eli Lilly wants you to know that it is determined to lose its rep as a last-place finisher in the race to get new blockbusters to the market. And the pharma giant is signaling that the R&D group is looking for more drugs it can bring in to complete a promised surge in new drug approvals over the next 5 years.

Eli Lilly $LLY laid out its strategy for the next wave of R&D work today, vowing to hit the gas in accelerating new development efforts. Lilly execs highlighted their top drugs in the pipeline and also made a modest bet on STING last night, a target that has come under a dark cloud on the cancer side in recent months. 

Lilly, though, put down $12 million to ally with Aduro $ADRO — which has been hammered by a string of setbacks — on the cGAS-STING pathway inhibitor program for autoimmune diseases, adding significant milestones for every successful effort.

Dan Daniel Skovronsky Lilly

Daniel Skovronsky

That deal, which drove up Aduro’s battered stock by 29% in after-market trading, follows a string of new deals at Lilly aimed at beefing up the pipeline for the next 5 years.

Lilly has big promises to keep. It’s halfway through a drive to get 20 drug approvals over 10 years, with 10 more to go over the next 5 years. Averaging 2 new drug approvals a year isn’t easy. But numbers like that also matter less than the earning power of each.

Here are the new drugs, experimental and in need of extensions, which are at the forefront in their 5 core areas:

— Oncology: Verzenio, pegilodecakin
— Pain: Emgality, lasmiditan, tanezumab
— Neurodegeneration: N3pG antibody, tau antibody, D1PAM
— Immunology: Olumiant, mirikizumab
— Diabetes: Insulins and Connected Care, Trulicity, tirzepatide

At the top of the queue you’ll find nasal glucagon for hypoglycemia and lasmiditan for acute migraine being lined up for a potential FDA approval in 2019. 

Daniel Skovronsky, the recently named R&D chief at Lilly, is putting a big emphasis on R&D speed through Phase III. The last 5 years may have vastly improved Lilly’s rep for being able to develop new drugs and get an approval, but it’s long been a notorious laggard in getting to the market, often coming in last.

Skovronsky’s goal is to reduce the time from target identification to the clinic to 3 years, then carve out 2 years in the time needed to complete the clinical program and continue to beef up the pipeline with external deals.

Lilly will continue to spend the money that puts it in the top 15 of global R&D spenders each year. The research budget will hit $5.6 billion to $5.8 billion in 2019. That’s a significant bump up from the $5 billion to $5.2 billion it forecast for this year.

Image: Eli Lilly corporate headquarters in Indianapolis AP Photo

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