Eli Lilly Hits 14-Year High as Investors Await Alzheimer's Data

Published: Jun 16, 2015

Eli Lilly (LLY) Hits 14-Year High as Investors Await Alzheimer's Data
June 12, 2015
By Riley McDermid, BioSpace.com Breaking News Sr. Editor

Investors who are champing at the bit for new data on Eli Lilly and Company ’s Alzheimer’s drug solanezumab have sent shares of the company up more than 10 percent this week, ahead of a disclosure at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) expected by Monday.

"If the drug works and is eventually approved, its annual sales could be mind boggling, easily in excess of $10 billion," John Boris, an analyst with Suntrust Robinson Humphrey, told Reuters.

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co is expected to release its AAC abstract within the next few days. That data will detail a two-year study, dubbed Expedition Ext, that followed solanezumab in a range of patients. Investors are hoping it will duplicate some earlier positive data that showed the drug may have slowed neuron death in people with a mild form of Alzheimer’s.

"There will be a fair amount of interest in that two-year data, and what you would (hope) for is a sort of maintaining over a longer period what you saw at 6 months," Eric Siemers, medical director for Lilly's Alzheimer's team, told Reuters Friday.

"That would reinforce the conclusion that solanezumab was disease-modifying, and that patients could never get back what they lost by being on placebo those initial 18 months."

If solanezumab is shown to be somewhat effective it will be a new lease on life for a drug that had been considered a dud only a few years ago. At that time, Lilly disclosed it had been little help in patients with mild to severe Alzheimer’s in two earlier studies, Expedition and Expedition 2. But a closer look at the data found it was effective in some patients, prompting a two-year extension trials.

If eventually approved, Eli Lilly would be competing with Biogen Idec, Inc. , which has so far shown that its experimental Alzheimer's drug BIIB037 reduces amyloid plaque in the brain, a leading factor in the disease.

Mark Schoenebaum, a biotech analyst and medical doctor who leads the biotech team at ISI Evercore, said in a note to investors in May that the drug is already setting itself up as a competitor for Eli Lilly and Company (LLY)’s solanezumab. “The doctor's overall impression of the data was extremely positive, with caveats,” wrote Schoenebaum in a note.

“In our doctor's opinion, the data presented today put BIIB037 ‘in a completely different league’ than Lilly's solanezumab,” said Schoenebaum. “He said that most investigators were very positive about the data, and some were ecstatic. For our doctor, it was critical there was a dose response curve on MMSE and CDR-SB in a relatively short time frame.”

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