Big Molecules and Big Pharma
"Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world." Richard DiMarchi, Eli Lilly & Co.'s group VP, research technologies, recalled Brian Wilson's lyric at Windhover Information Inc.'s 2001 Pharmaceutical Strategic Alliances conference as he pointed to a chart illustrating the exponential growth of genetic information generated over the past five years. "The question here," remarked DiMarchi, "is whether you can surf a Tsunami." Citing recent reports from Accenture and Lehman Brothers warning the drug industry to exercise extreme care in attempting to commercially exploit the fruits of genomics, DiMarchi went on to advise, "I think you're going to need a heckuva lot of wax to surf this wave, but this is where the future is and you need to be a part of it." One way for drug companies to compete in this new environment is to have the flexibility to work in both large molecule and small molecule therapeutics. Lilly has a strong commitment to protein-based drugs, and, in his presentation, DiMarchi discussed the economic/scientific advantages of working in small molecules, as well as the obstacles for companies that choose to do so.
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Benefiting from lessons learned during the more than two decades of futile efforts to develop a sepsis treatment, Lilly is primed to launch the first sepsis therapeutic. Lilly's apparent success reflects a revised view of the disease as multi-factorial in nature, involving not only the body's inflammatory processes--long thought to be at the heart of the disease--but also its interlocking coagulation and clot-busting systems. Zovant's development is also marked by a series of business decisions that could have long-term implications for the company, including a renewed commitment to large molecule drugs and the creation of a critical care business. Critical care pharmaceuticals and protein therapeutics are, in many ways, complementary pursuits for Lilly that could help the company maintain its independence by generating big money products that won't require the huge commercialization costs associated with mass-marketed drugs.
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