Lilly, Medtronic partner on new approach to treating Parkinson's

Just a year-and-a-half after buying up promising new diagnostic technology for Parkinson's, Eli Lilly has signed up for a new collaboration with Medtronic that will marry its biologic approach to treating the disease with a new drug delivery system for the brain. And their partnership earned an endorsement from the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has been funding work in the field.

Lilly plans to use Medtronic's implantable drug infusion system to pump a modified form of glial cell derived neurotrophic factor directly into targeted regions in the brain. "We believe we have biosynthetically engineered this GDNF variant to overcome technical hurdles of previous research in this area and are hopeful that early testing of our biologic with Medtronic's device will provide the necessary data to safely advance into human studies," said Michael L. Hutton, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of the neurodegeneration team at Lilly. "By collaborating with Medtronic from the earliest phase of research, we are maximizing the potential for this therapy's efficient and effective development."

Lilly has been a big player in the CNS field, though it has had little to show for it recently. The pharma giant bought up Avid Radiopharmaceuticals in an $800 million deal last fall, acquiring a new diagnostic system that they hope to use to detect Parkinson's and other diseases at an early point.

"While a potential treatment approach resulting from this research is many years away, we are heartened by Lilly and Medtronic's commitment to develop a neurotrophic-based therapy for Parkinson's disease," said Katie Hood, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. "Our foundation has funded separate, ongoing work in neurotrophic factors for years, and we continue to believe in their promise to lead to a critically needed disease-modifying treatment for Parkinson's."

- here's the Lilly release