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Shared Risk, Shared Reward

In May 2014, AstraZeneca announced that it was seeking a partner for its experimental Alzheimer’s drug, the oral beta secretase cleaving enzyme (BACE) inhibitor AZD3293. Now, Eli Lilly has stepped up to help move the drug through Phase II and III trials (1).


AstraZeneca previously highlighted the potential revenue from the drug at $5 billion per annum during Pfizer’s unsuccessful takeover bid in May 2014. However, they gave it only a 9 percent chance of success.

Neurology is no longer a core area for AstraZeneca, which is focusing its efforts in cancer, diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular medicine. Lilly, on the other hand, has maintained a strong interest in Alzheimer’s research, with the goal of making Alzheimer’s dementia preventable by 2025. Lilly’s own BACE inhibitor, LY288672, had to be scrapped after abnormal liver function was detected in Phase II clinical trial patients, joining a string of failures in the field.

The few drugs available for Alzheimer’s disease only mitigate the symptoms temporarily; so there’s certainly a big potential market for more effective drugs. A spokesperson for Lilly said that they were encouraged by AZD3293 Phase I results that showed a reduction in levels of beta-amyloid in the cerebrospinal fluid of both Alzheimer’s patients and healthy volunteers; beta-amyloid forms plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, so inhibiting its formation is thought to slow disease progression. But AZD3293 is not the only BACE inhibitor on the block – Merck remains one step ahead and will move its candidate, MK-8931, into Phase III trials in December 2014.

As for the AZD3293 collaboration, Lilly will lead the clinical trial program, while AstraZeneca will manufacture the drug. The companies will share both the risks and potential rewards of the experimental treatment, with costs and global revenues to be split equally.

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  1. AstraZeneca Press Release, “AstraZeneca and Lilly announce alliance to develop and commercialise BACE inhibitor AZD3293 for Alzheimer’s disease”, September 16, 2014.
About the Author
Charlotte Barker

As an Editor at Texere, I’m working closely with our audience to create vibrant, engaging content that reflects the hard work and passion that goes into bringing new medicines to market. I got my start in biomedical publishing as a commissioning editor for healthcare journals and have spent my career covering everything from early-stage research to clinical medicine, so I know my way around. And I can’t think of a more interesting, challenging or important area to be working in.

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