R&D budget: $5.24 billion
Change from 2015: Up 9.3%
Total 2016 revenue: $21.2 billion
R&D budget as percentage of revenue: 24.7%
Eli Lilly spent nearly a quarter of its income on R&D last year, putting it near the top of its peers in percentage terms, and in 2016 saw some of that spend pay off—overall, however, last year was a mixed bag for the company’s research.
Let’s look at some of the positives first: In March, it got the FDA green light for blockbuster psoriasis contender Taltz (ixekizumab), an IL-17A anti-inflammatory, and followed in the footsteps of Novartis’ rival Cosentyx (secukinumab), the first IL-17A drug to hit the market.
Later on, in October, it also gained a U.S. approval for Lartruvo (olaratumab), in combination with doxorubicin, as a front-line therapy for patients with soft tissue sarcoma (STS).
But it was not all good news, and there were flops and setbacks in the clinic, the largest being what was the inevitable demise of its amyloid drug solanezumab, prompted by a series of failures and adding to the depressingly high pile of failed amyloid drugs.
There was also the announcement, made early last year, that the Big Pharma was to ax around 200 R&D positions, although this was dressed up as a “voluntary reallocation program” that saw it reduce its global R&D headcount by nearly 3%, although it did up its investment in other areas.
Later in the year, it also lost Richard Gaynor, M.D., one of the top execs out of its oncology division, to be succeeded by Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D., who joined the company from his former role as associate professor of medicine in the Department of Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School.
Gaynor had been SVP of clinical development and medical affairs for Lilly Oncology since 2013 and at the division across several roles for nearly 15 years, with his retirement a big loss in terms of experience and talent.
The company is still pushing on with its cancer R&D, working on combo trials with Merck and its PD-1 drug Keytruda, as well as with AstraZeneca on its experimental PD-L1 durvalumab and Bristol-Myers with its Opdivo, while also signing up to work with Immunocore's lead T-cell receptor-based candidate IMCgp100, in combination with its kinase inhibitors galunisertib (LY2157299) and merestinib (LY2801653) in melanoma.
One of its biggest new cancer hopes lies with its CDK4/6 inhibitor abemaciclib, but again is some way behind rival Pfizer, which has already seen its competing med Ibrance (palbociclib) approved by the FDA. And Novartis recently became the second, bagging a recent FDA approval for Kisqali (ribociclib), ahead of Lilly.
Check out Eli Lilly’s pipeline.