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Eli Lilly touts antibody that reverses symptom of Alzheimer's

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Eli Lilly's ($LLY) dogged pursuit of a new therapy for Alzheimer's has led to the discovery of an experimental antibody that wipes out some of the sturdier brain plaques associated with progression of the memory-stealing disease. With impressive mouse data in hand, Reuters reported, the drug giant plans to jump into human development within a year.

Curing mice doesn't count for much at all. But a therapy for reversing the decline of patients with dementia would be an enormous advance because no such drug exists on the market and Alzheimer's, which affects about 5 million Americans and rising, is one of the biggest health threats facing the U.S. Lilly seems excited about the prospects of its preclinical antibody program.

"We're very enthused about understanding the mechanism and science behind it," Ronald DeMattos, a lead researcher for Lilly's study, told Reuters. "We don't know how it translates in humans until we test human antibodies in clinical trials."

Drugmakers have struggled to fight Alzheimer's with therapies once beta amyloid plaques take residence in the brain, and Lilly's and other companies' failures in the clinic have pushed developers to focus on treating patients before the disease reaches this stage. Yet an antibody from the Indianapolis-based drugmaker homed in on deposits of the plaques in mice and wiped out about half of them. 

In the meantime, Lilly hasn't given up faith in the potential of its banged-up solanezumab program, which brought two Phase III failures this year but evidence of moderate benefits for patients with mild forms of the disease.

In other diseases where therapeutic options abound, hints of efficacy in failed studies seldom generate any enthusiasm from drug companies. Yet with the huge market in Alzheimer's, Big Pharma has been willing to make big gambles to score a drug for the disease.

- get more from the Reuters report

Special Reports: The Alzheimer's pipeline: What's next? | The Top Phase III Disasters of 2012

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