The companies say the goal of the collaboration is to combine the strengths of Lilly’s modified glial cell derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), with Medtronic’s specially designed implantable drug pump and catheter, to deliver medicine direct to the brain.
Michael Hutton, chief scientific officer of the neurodegeneration team at Lilly, explained more about the project’s goals.
“We believe we have biosynthetically engineered this GDNF variant to overcome technical hurdles of previous research in this area and are hopeful that early testing of our biologic with Medtronic’s device will provide the necessary data to safely advance into human studies,” he said.
“By collaborating with Medtronic from the earliest phase of research we are maximising the potential for this therapy’s efficient and effective development.”
Lilly claims to have designed its GDNF variant specifically to achieve increased distribution in targeted brain regions. The company says that in combination with Medtronic’s delivery system, the novel GDNF variant has the potential to counter the neurodegneration that leads to worsening symptoms and progression of Parkinson’s disease.
“Our collaboration with Lilly is bringing together the expertise of both companies to develop a new approach to the treatment of Parkinson’s disease,” said Steve Oesterle, senior vice president of medicine and technology at Medtronic.
“One of the most significant challenges in delivering biologic treatment for neurodegenerative diseases is crossing the blood brain barrier. We have extensive experience in targeted drug delivery and technology that allow delivery of therapeutic agents directly to the brain.”
Katie Hood, CEO of the Michael J. Fox foundation for Parkinson’s research, welcomed news of the collaboration with cautious optimism.
“While a potential treatment approach resulting from this research is many years away, we are heartened by Lilly and Medtronic’s commitment to develop a neurotrophic-based therapy for Parkinson’s disease,” she said.
“Our foundation has funded separate, on-going work in neurotrophic factors for years, and we continue to believe in their promise to lead a critically needed disease-modifying treatment for Parkinson’s.”
It’s estimated that between 7 and 10 million people worldwide suffer from Parkinson’s. The condition causes the progressive loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, resulting in balance and coordination problems, tremors and muscular stiffness. Currently there is no cure.