Lilly Launches Open Innovation Drug Discovery Platform

Eli Lilly and CompanyEli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) announced the launch of a new open innovation platform designed to help build the company's pipeline of tomorrow and, from a philanthropic perspective, identify molecules that may have application for treating multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). The new platform, titled Open Innovation Drug Discovery, is supported by an innovative new website available at openinnovation.Lilly.com. It builds on the success of Lilly's Phenotypic Drug Discovery Initiative (PD2) that was launched in 2009 to facilitate research on molecules around the world that have the potential to ultimately be developed into medicines.

The new platform consists of three components:

  • TD2, or target drug discovery, a new component that screens submitted molecules for their potential to interact with known disease targets.
  • PD2, which continues to screen submitted molecules in complex cellular assays with the goal of identifying potential new medicines acting by novel mechanisms or pathways.
  • An additional new component that screens molecules for their potential in the fight against MDR-TB—a form of tuberculosis (TB) that is resistant to at least two first-line TB medicines—through the Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative. Lilly has long been involved in global efforts to stop the spread of TB and MDR-TB, which disproportionately affects underserved populations. Given the recent emergence of MDR-TB, there is an urgent need to find breakthrough treatments.(1)

"I think of Open Innovation Drug Discovery as a platform consisting of multiple superhighways all pointed towards the final destination of discovering novel medicines that we believe have the potential to improve patients' lives," said Alan D. Palkowitz, Ph.D., vice president of discovery chemistry research and technologies, Lilly. "These superhighways connect scientists from all over the world with Lilly, for the common goal of finding new treatments for diseases where patients are in need and looking for answers, such as cancer, diabetes and MDR-TB."

Many scientists have molecules they would like to explore as potential medicines, but for a range of reasons, including the lack of resources or barriers to engaging in the drug discovery and development process, they are not able to advance their work. The Open Innovation Drug Discovery platform is designed to minimize these obstacles and benefit continued research that supplements the innovation of Lilly's scientists.

In addition to focusing on research areas in which Lilly has an internal strategic focus and deep expertise - cancer, endocrine, cardiovascular and neuroscience - the open innovation platform now will serve as a bridge between external scientists and the not-for-profit Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative, whose mission is to accelerate early-stage drug discovery and help identify the TB medicines of the future. Leading members of the Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative include the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

How the Open Innovation Drug Discovery Platform Works
The Open Innovation Drug Discovery platform utilizes a secure website that offers Lilly's proprietary computational and informatics tools to aid scientists in the design and selection of molecules. Once a scientist submits a molecule to the website and it meets certain specified requirements, Lilly tests it - free of charge - in a series of biological assay panels that evaluate it for its uniqueness and potential to be further optimized into a drug candidate. Comprehensive data reports are then provided to the submitting scientist.

In the case of the cancer, endocrine, cardiovascular and neuroscience screenings, in return for providing the data Lilly retains first rights to negotiate a collaboration or licensing agreement with the submitter. If no such agreement is reached, the external scientist retains "no-strings-attached" ownership of the data and can choose to use it in publications, grant proposals or to further refine his or her hypotheses about the molecule's potential as a medicine. In the case of the MDR-TB screening, promising data could result in a collaboration between the submitting organization and the Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative.

"Our mission at Lilly is to help people live longer, healthier lives," said Jan Lundberg, Ph.D., executive vice president, science and technology, and president, Lilly Research Laboratories. "In doing so, we look for where there is a need and forge ahead within our own labs and through partnerships. In that spirit, we recognize that there are many untapped sources of ideas and molecules outside of Lilly that would otherwise go unnoticed without initiatives like this one that advance science."

About Lilly
Lilly, a leading innovation-driven corporation, is developing a growing portfolio of pharmaceutical products by applying the latest research from its own worldwide laboratories and from collaborations with eminent scientific organizations. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Lilly provides answers - through medicines and information - for some of the world's most urgent medical needs.

1. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Tuberculosis Fact Sheet, accessed on September 12, 2011. Available at: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/topics/Documents/tuberculosis-fact-sheet.pdf

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