The collaboration between Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE:LLY) and Medtronic Inc. (NYSE:MDT) could some day slow, or even cure, Parkinson’s disease, according to the Minneapolis, Minn.-based company’s top doc.
Medtronic’s vice president of medicine and technology, Dr. Steven Oesterle, told MassDevice that, while the project is still in the pre-clinical stages, the goal of the “collaboration” is to create something that is curative of the neurological disease that affects four million to six million individuals across the globe.
Medtronic announced yesterday that it will develop a drug pump and specially designed catheter to deliver a biologic therapy made by Lilly. The biologic, a modified form of glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor, will be delivered to the brain over time by the Medtronic pump. The companies said the therapy has the potential to “impact the neuro-degeneration that leads to worsening symptoms and progression of Parkinson’s disease,” according to a prepared release.
“The promise of [glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor] is that if you get it right, it could be restorative,” Oesterle told us. “The promise of all biologics is restorative and not palliative.”
But that promise could be as far as five years off as Medtronic is still in the very early stages of its research with Lilly.
Oesterle described the deal as a “pretty equal collaboration” to test the technology, but wouldn’t elaborate on specific terms of the deal from a business perspective. Lilly’s biologic, known as GDNF, is a therapeutic that has potential to be restorative of Parkinson’s, but has languished because there’s no way to get the protein through the blood/brain barrier, he said.
“It’s difficult to get large molecules into the brain,” he told us.
Medtronic sees the collaboration as one day fitting into its Activa DBS systems, which are designed to help suppress tremors in patients suffering from the neurological disorder, Oesterle said. Sales of the device helped boost Medtronic’s neuro-modulation business by 2 percent during the three months ended Jan. 28 and 1 percent for the year to date.
Total sales for the unit amounted to $401 million for the third quarter and $1.15 billion for the nine-month period, according to regulatory filings.
“I see it as upstream from Activa, perhaps more early-on in the continuum of Parkinson’s that could be restorative or curative,” he said. “Younger patients who have the symptoms of Parkinson’s but who wouldn’t get deep brain stimulation treatment.”
Interestingly, this isn’t the company’s first dance with the therapy. In 2004, Amgen Inc. (NSDQAMGN) stopped a trial using a similar compound with Medtronic technology, according to Reuters. The company said it stopped the 48-patient study due a “risk of irreversible brain damage and the absence of any demonstrated medical benefit.”