Lilly Oncology Taking 'Aggressive' Position

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(Image of Sue Mahony courtesy of Eli Lilly and Co.) (Image of Sue Mahony courtesy of Eli Lilly and Co.)

The president of Lilly Oncology says the company has a "strong base" of existing and potential treatments to fuel a new strategy for its cancer-fighting pipeline. During an earnings call with investors Tuesday morning, Sue Mahony said the company's oncology unit will be more aggressive, particularly when it comes to potential treatments in earlier stages "that clear a high bar." Officials say Lilly Oncology will sharpen its focus on 10 internal assets, seven of which are currently in the pipeline.

Additionally, Mahony says, Lilly Oncology could continue to connect with other drug makers on partnerships to help drive treatments to market like one signed with Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) earlier this year. The goal, she says, is to boost business development. "Specifically, we will actively pursue assets that combine rationally with our existing products, serve as new potential foundational agents and enable new immuno-oncology breakthroughs," Mahony said. "The good news is that there is a lot of external innovation in oncology, and we intend to be much more active in this space to ensure we have a competitive pipeline going forward."

During a retooling of its business units announced earlier this year, Mahony stayed on as a senior vice president and as president of Lilly Oncology.

Senior Vice President of Global Development and Medical Affairs Levi Garraway, who joined the company in January, says Lilly Oncology is positioned for a "remarkable" opportunity. He says "the vast majority of our internal R&D dollars" will now be focused on the aforementioned seven early-to-mid-stage assets in its oncology pipeline. One potential treatment, Abemaciclib, is awaiting regulatory approval, while several others are in the first, second or third phases of the development process. "We are giving ourselves flexibility to bet more aggressively on portfolio assets with the highest foundational potential," Garraway said, "while de-risking others externally, and importantly, making room to bring external innovation into our oncology portfolio."

During its second quarter earnings report Tuesday, Lilly detailed profit of more than $1 billion, a 35 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, and it revised previous full-year research and development investment expectations to a range of $5 billion to $5.2 billion.

Lilly Oncology President Sue Mahony says the company could continue to connect with other drug makers on partnerships to help drive treatments to market.
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