Lilly, with Alzheimer's in its crosshairs, forms new neuroscience unit, unifies oncology under Loxo exec

Neuroscience has zoomed up the agenda at Eli Lilly as the combination of data on donanemab and the accelerated approval of Biogen’s Aduhelm has opened up an opportunity in Alzheimer’s disease. Lilly has responded by splitting off its late-phase neurodegeneration and pain prospects into a new business unit.

Currently, the late-phase neurodegeneration and pain candidates are jumbled together with drugs targeting dermatology, gastroenterology and rheumatology indications as part of Lilly Bio-Medicines. That will change in the first week of September. 

Lilly Bio-Medicines is splitting into two business units: Lilly Neuroscience and Lilly Immunology. The neuroscience unit will house commercial and phase 3 neurodegeneration and pain drugs under the leadership of Anne White, currently senior vice president and president of Lilly Oncology. The rejig puts White in charge of the potential launch of donanemab in Alzheimer’s.

The phase 3 and commercial dermatology, gastroenterology and rheumatology treatments currently overseen by Lilly Bio-Medicines will come under the control of a new immunology group led by Patrik Jonsson. Lilly has asked Jonsson to handle the responsibilities, which include getting Dupixent rival lebrikizumab to market, on top of his work as president of Lilly USA and chief customer officer.

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Moving White to the new neuroscience group will create a gap at the top of Lilly Oncology. Lilly plans to fill the vacancy by promoting Jacob Van Naarden, one of the executives who joined the company as part of its $8 billion takeover of Loxo Oncology. Van Naarden took over as CEO of Loxo Oncology at Lilly earlier this year and will retain those responsibilities while serving as president of Lilly Oncology.

The appointment of Van Naarden at the head of both units continues the Loxofication of oncology at Lilly. After buying Loxo, Lilly merged the biotech with its existing cancer research unit. Van Naarden and two other Loxo executives took up top roles at the combined organization. Lilly Oncology stayed separate, reflecting its focus on commercial products, but will now be led by Loxo’s Van Naarden.

Lilly disclosed news of the rejig alongside details of the departure of Alfonso Zulueta. The president of Lilly International is set to retire at the end of the year and be replaced by Ilya Yuffa, currently president of the pre-split Lilly Bio-Medicines.