Alois Alzheimer's microscope and childhood home (Eli Lilly)

Fail­ure, faith and $8 bil­lion: How Lil­ly's amy­loid con­vic­tion brought it to the brink of Alzheimer's ap­proval

Twen­ty-nine years ago, Eli Lil­ly bought an old, ivy-cov­ered brick house in Mark­t­bre­it, Ger­many.

The house was the child­hood home of Alois Alzheimer, who had peered through his mi­cro­scope and dis­cov­ered sus­pi­cious look­ing plaques in sam­ples of brains rav­aged by de­men­tia. Near­ly a cen­tu­ry lat­er, in 1995, Lil­ly’s ex­ec­u­tives had high hopes for an ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­py that boost­ed brain re­cep­tors in­volved in learn­ing and mem­o­ry, and its sci­en­tists were hard at work on oth­er pills that would stop Alzheimer’s dis­ease in its tracks.

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