Eli Lilly has anted up for its next big bet on a next-gen pain drug, buying Hydra assets
With its new CGRP migraine drug Emgality (galcanezumab) OK’d a few months ago and more late-stage work underway on lasmiditan and tanezumab, Eli Lilly’s pain group has selected its next shot at a next-gen drug.
The target is TRPA-1, one of the family of ion channel targets that has long been a focus at Hydra Biosciences, run by Russ Herndon. Hydra at one point had a collaboration on this way back in 2012 with Cubist, just before Cubist got bought out by Merck.
What’s the big attraction? First, it’s a non-opioid, which regulators have wanted to encourage in the face of a national epidemic of opioid abuse. But a number of academic investigators, including UCSF’s David Julius, have been attracted to a target that is built in as part of the body’s alarm system for pungent, inflammatory irritants, like wasabi or tear gas. Researchers believe it can also be adapted for chronic pain.
Mark Mintun, vice president of pain and neurodegeneration research at Lilly, is buying up all of Hydra’s assets in this area — although he isn’t saying for how much — adding that the plan now is to start clinical trials “in the near term.”
Lilly has been actively hunting up a slate of new deals to beef up its pipeline. Just a few days ago there was a deal to collaborate with AC Immune on tau for Alzheimer’s, going back into a field where it’s seen nothing but failure. The pharma giant has had its ups and downs in R&D, often coming in late when a new field opens up, but CEO Dan Ricks and new R&D chief Dan Skovronsky are promising to pick up the pace.