Establishing R&D bonds is wave of the future, says Lilly boss

By Natalie Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pharmacology

Drug researchers must integrate development programs more to drive the industry into the 21st century, says Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter.

Speaking at AAPS, Lechleiter discussed his vision for a fully integrated pharma “network of innovation”​.

He suggested that the industry must create new ways of working and must engage more with strategic partners to further their research.

And besides working closer with more partners within the private sector, he said that companies must also share their activities with government bodies and work closer with government research.

Lechleiter’s ideals are reflected in Lilly’s transformation from a FIPCO (fully integrated pharmaceutical company) to a FIPNET (fully integrated pharmaceutical network) over the past decade.

Of the move, he said: Through FIPNET we can share ideas.”

Since becoming a FIPNET, the Indianapolis, US firm has established a number of strategic sourcing relationships. These have sped up programmes and reduced fixed costs while giving Lilly access to best-in-class development and manufacturing services.

Lechleiter said: One result of this effort is the Lilly PD2( Phenotypic Drug Discovery) whereby Lilly opened access to its internal panel of disease-relevant phenotypic modules, which query complex cellular systems instead of specific targets.

“There are over 400 innovative investigators in the program discovering activation molecules through it.”

Incremental innovation

Lechleiter said that one key factor of the innovation network was the ability to build on each other’s developments.

He said: New progress in medical innovation is slowing, but these advances eat up and build on one another.

“In cancer treatment, for example, incremental innovation still rules the day.

“The evolution from 50 per cent survival rate in 1975 has soared today and that is down to small incremental advances.”

However, he also said the industry’s ability to think outside of the regulatory box is as important as sharing advances in drug discovery.

He added: “The PDUFA (Prescription Drug User Fee Act)is up for re-organisation later this year.

“If strong controls are imposed on drugs now they will almost certainly reduce our ability to develop new drugs.

“The risk I see is that research based pharma companies, and society as a whole, have too cramped a view of what innovation can be.

“By sticking to patents or previous innovations we can miss out on new ones.”

Moving forward

Lilly’s latest collaboration effort was announced this week with CDMO (contract development and manufacturing organisation) AMRI (Albany Molecular Research, Inc).

Under the deal the firms will exchange scientific information with AMRI recruiting more than 40 synthetic chemists by the third quarter of 2012 to support Lilly’s drug discovery programs.

The chemists will work at Lilly’s Indianapolis headquarters in the medicinal chemistry department.

Thomas D’Ambra, president and CEO of AMRI, said: “We are proud to be at the forefront of establishing a highly collaborative model inside the walls of an innovative biopharmaceutical company like Lilly, which we believe will help accelerate discovery and contribute to the highest quality standards in chemistry demanded by Lilly.”

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