MSKCC’s Maura Dickler to become Eli Lilly’s new late-stage cancer R&D lead

Eli Lilly
(Picture courtesy of Eli Lilly)

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Maura Dickler, M.D., has been lined up as Lilly’s new VP of late-phase development in oncology.

The prestigious breast cancer researcher, who has worked on drugs targeting CDK4 and 6 as well as PI3K, and a number of breast cancer mutations, takes up the role on 7 May.

Dickler will report to Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D., SVP and global development and medical affairs of Lilly Oncology.

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“Dr. Dickler is an internationally recognized oncology leader with drug development expertise spanning a wide range of therapeutic modalities,” said Garraway, who is also fairly new to Lilly. The former associate professor of medicine in the Department of Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School took over from Richard Gaynor, a longtime Lilly vet, at the start of last year, as Lilly tried to refocus its pipeline efforts after a fairly dry patch and some setbacks in other areas.

A few months ago, Lilly poached another well-regarded researcher, then Duke University Medical Center’s Kimberly Blackwell, M.D., who became VP of early phase development and immuno-oncology at its cancer unit.

In its phase 3 cancer pipeline, Lilly has several shots on goal, including attempts at new indications for already marketed drugs, including Lartruvo (olaratumab), Cyramza (ramucirumab) and Verzenio (abemaciclib), as well as experimental drugs in midstage, which include CHK1 inhibitor prexasertib in lung and ovarian cancers.

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But this list will be thinned out, as the Big Pharma announced last summer that it was seeking partners for two-thirds of its midphase oncology compounds. Lilly wants to offload a handful of midstage candidates to focus its R&D dollars on a clutch of earlier assets it thinks can become the new standard of care.

Lilly is prioritizing the development of seven candidates, including several in phase 2, while the rest are yet to get out of phase 1. The list includes a PD-L1 antibody and PI3K/mTOR dual inhibitor Lilly is developing for use in combinations, as well as the small-molecule CHK-1 inhibitor it picked up from Array BioPharma. These candidates made the cut after being assessed against a framework Lilly said at the time it was using to make decisions.