Donanemab's Ph3 success: Lilly's dedication and persistence finally paid off
This is a huge day for Alzheimer's patients around the world! Congrats John Sims the rest of the Eli Lilly Alzheimer's team. While many other people have commented on the data comparison between donanemab and Biogen / Eisai's lecanemab and the potential showdown between the two drugs, I want to focus on a different aspect of the story - it's a story about 3 companies fully dedicated to changing the course of Alzheimer's disease, a diease that robs us of our memory, independence, and identify. It's a story about resilience, persistence, and never-wavering commitment. Unfortunately, these things are not always appreciated by Wall Street.
I got the first-hand experience with this dedication through the Astrazeneca-Lilly collaboration on another Alzheimer's drug, lanabecestat, a BACE inhibitor back in 2014. At the time, Eli Lilly had just experienced their setbacks with another amyloid antibody solanezumab and it desparately wanted another shot on goal, which drove them to sign a big deal with Astrazeneca to co-develop and co-commercialize lanabecestat. Till this day, I have to say that I have never seen such a group of people who are so passionate about one disease. In a big pharma, it's quite common to see people jumping from one disease team to another. But at Lilly, I saw so many people working on Alzheimer's disease for so many years. They might have switched functions or changed to projects, but they stuck to Alzheimer's disease, a disease they were determined to defeat. Their passion and commitment was so contagious that I quickly became a staunch proponent of Alzheimer's disease. The next 3 years really was the best time of my life in a big pharma, working with such a passionate group on daily basis.
Unfortunately in 2017, lanabecestat failed a Ph3 interim analysis. Astrazeneca quickly further retreated from neuroscience, a therapeutic area that it already called an opportunistic area. Many people at the time had speculated that Lilly might do the same after years of setbacks in Alzheimer's, but NO. NOT Lilly! Fast forward 5 years, Lilly's resilience and persistence have finally paid off!
So again, congrats to my Lilly friends, Dr. John Sims and others! It's the beginning of a new era for Alzheimer's treatment!