Eli Lilly Research Lab Tour Reveals More Than Meets The Eye
By Rob Wright
In November 2012, I wrote the cover feature story, “Eli Lilly and Company — Open For Innovation.” The article was based on an interview with Alan Palkowitz, VP of discovery chemistry, who shared insights on Lilly’s (NYSE: LLY) Open Innovation Drug Discovery (OIDD) platform. While many companies have adopted the idea of open innovation, actions speak louder than words. Last month, Lilly Research Laboratories (LRL) opened its doors to a select group of media for a rare behind-the-scenes tour of three innovation labs (Alzheimer’s disease, advanced analytics, and automated synthesis) at its global corporate headquarters in Indianapolis. My colleague Ed Miseta, chief editor for Outsourced Pharma and Clinical Leader, and I, along with representatives from The Wall Street Journal, Scrip Intelligence, Indianapolis Business Journal, Indianapolis Star, and CBS and Fox TV local affiliates, participated in a roundtable meeting with members of the LRL leadership team. During this discussion, we learned the focus of Lilly’s Timely Valued Medicines (TVM) strategy, which has resulted in the company having one of the richest Phase 3 pipelines in its 135-year history. Of the 10 assets in Phase 3 clinical development, 9 were derived internally.
Not only did we get to hear from the leadership as to their various approaches to R&D, but we also got the opportunity to learn about the company’s leader, Jan Lundberg, Ph.D., who joined Lilly in 2010 as EVP of science and technology and president of LRL.
Lundberg has authored more than 500 original articles in international peerreviewed journals and is listed as one of the most highly cited authors by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). “If there is nothing to conquer, then life is boring,” he explained. One of the current challenges Lilly is trying to conquer — finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, a lengthy process requiring perseverance. In fact, a mantra of perseverance was evident throughout the tour.
Ronald DeMattos, Ph.D., led us through the Alzheimer’s Disease Lab (in vivo), an ailment on which he has been focused for 15+ years. Steve Ruberg, who completed his Ph.D. in biostatistics, led the group through a tour of the Advanced Analytics Lab (in silico), demonstrating how Lilly is using computer modeling and simulation, predictive analytics, data mining, and analysis to improve clinical study design. Alex Godfrey, Ph.D., walked the group through the only fully integrated remote access chemistry lab in the world — the Automated Synthesis Lab (in vitro). While many have been critical of Lilly’s failures, this tour revealed that people within Lilly are learning from these experiences and view successful drug discovery as a test of endurance to be persevered, not merely endured. (For additional insight into what Lilly is doing today, check out the interview with the company’s global head of science and technology partnerships on page 30.)