Eli Lilly, Project A.L.S. forge preclinical drug discovery pact

Eli Lilly and the nonprofit Project A.L.S. are teaming up to boost the pipeline of potential drugs for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Under the agreement, Project A.L.S. will study molecules designed by Lilly ($LLY) to target the signaling pathways thought to be involved in cancer and inflammation.

Joint research by Project A.L.S. and Columbia University professors Tom Maniatis and Thomas Jessell has identified certain known cancer-associated signaling pathways that also seem to play a critical role in ALS.

"The evidence demonstrating a potential role for these cancer signaling pathways in the progression of ALS is compelling," said Dr. Greg Plowman, vice president of oncology research at Lilly, in a statement. "Lilly will provide well-characterized and selective molecules that we hope will help accelerate the development of medicines for ALS."

Under the terms of the partnership, Project A.L.S. will select and screen molecules in Lilly's oncology pipeline to establish if these molecules show any therapeutic potential for ALS and inflammation. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease in which brain cells called motor neurons die, causing the loss of major motor functions, including walking, speaking, swallowing and breathing. The disease is usually fatal within 5 years of diagnosis. There is no cure for ALS and, so far, only one FDA-approved drug, riluzole, exists to help slow the progression of the disease.

- read the press release