Eli Lilly Cuts Ties With University of California, San Diego (UCSD) on $100 Million Alzheimer’s Program

Eli Lilly Cut Ties With University of California, San Diego (UCSD) on $100 Million Alzheimer’s Program
August 5, 2015
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

INDIANAPOLIS – Eli Lilly and Company severed ties with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD)’s management of an anti-amyloid Alzheimer’s study worth about $100 million following the departure of staff overseeing the study for another university, the Indiana-based company announced this morning.

Paul Aisen, the director of the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) at UCSD and members of his staff, departed the university earlier this year to take positions at the University of Southern California (USC). Aisen had been running the Anti-amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's disease (A4) study to test the use of solanezumab on patients who have evidence of amyloid plaque in their brains, but no signs of memory impairment. With many of the ACSD staff shifting employers, Eli Lilly said it was ending the relationship with UCSD and has hopes of continuing the study at USC under the direction of Aisen and his colleagues.

Lilly continues to be committed to the continuation and completion of this landmark study," Phyllis Ferrell, Alzheimer's platform leader for Lilly said in a statement.

The company added that since the study began, its objectives have been to maintain the safety and integrity of the study. In 2013, Lilly awarded UCSD a $76.6 million grant to assist in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia, affects 15 million people worldwide, a number that is expected to grow to 75 million by 2030 due, in part, to the lack of effective treatments. In total there are about 50 million people suffering from some form of dementia worldwide. There are currently no drugs that target the cause of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. There is a widespread belief that the buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain is one of the primary causes of the disease. Eli Lilly’s Solanezumab, which targets the amyloid plaque and is currently in Phase III trials, has shown some promise in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Eli Lilly is not the only company working on drugs targeting amyloid plaque. Boston-based Biogen, Inc.’s drug BIIB037, or aducanumab, has shown promise in reducing amyloid plaque, particularly at higher doses. Roche , buoyed by the promising studies of Biogen and Eli Lilly, will be taking a second stab at its own Alzheimer’s research.

Although Eli Lilly has parted ways with UCSD in terms of the Alzheimer’s study, the company has other research initiatives with the university. The company also maintains its 175,000 square foot Lilly Biotechnology Center in San Diego. Lilly moved into the San Diego area in 2004 when it bought Applied Molecular Evolution, Inc. The Lilly Biotechnology Center was created in 2009.

In June, the Keck School of Medicine at USC established the USC Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute (USC ATRI) in San Diego, close to the Lilly center. The focus is clinical research, intended to strengthen and complement USC’s existing Alzheimer’s research programs.

Because of the sensitive nature of the research being conducted, UCSD and USC are engaged in a legal dispute over the departure of the researchers.

There are several drugs on the market that help manage Alzheimer’s, but none treat the primary cause, including Eisai Inc. ’s Aracept. According to a Bloomberg report, there have been more than 100 failed efforts to develop a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease since 1998, including two from Roche. A 2014 report in Alzheimer’s Research UK showed 244 Alzheimer’s drugs were tested between 2002 and 2012, but only one was approved – Lundbeck A/S’s Ebixa, Bidness Etc. reported.

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