Live from BIO: Lilly targets multi-specific therapeutics in biologics push

At the BIO International Convention, Eli Lilly announced that it's making a large investment in multi-specific therapeutics, which the company believes have the potential to be safer and more effective than traditional medicines. Multi-specific therapeutics are molecules that feature two mechanisms of action, and are not to be confused with combination therapies, which involve two separate molecules. The move includes hiring 35 to 40 biochemists and biologists, with about half stationed at Lilly's San Diego site. The remainder of the new hires will report to corporate headquarters in Indianapolis. The exact value of the investment was not disclosed.

"Multi-specific therapeutics are what we consider to be 'next generation' biologics and given our deep expertise in protein engineering, is a scientific area where Lilly feels it can make a real difference for patients," Lilly spokesperson Judy Kay Moore said in an email to FierceBiotech, adding that many chronic diseases--like diabetes and oncology--are usually treated with two or more drugs. "Because multi-specific therapeutics have additive or potentially synergistic mechanisms of action, they have the potential to improve patient outcomes," she explained.

The company will make use of the protein engineering expertise it acquired in its buyout of Applied Molecular Evolution, which is based in San Diego. And it plans to comb the company's library of protein and antibody assets to identify additional candidates for the multi-specific therapeutics. Several candidates are already in preclinical development; Lilly expects a co-agonist peptide for diabetes to enter the clinic later this year.

- here's Lilly's release on the deal