Medtronic, Lilly combine forces on Parkinson's drug delivery

Two medical giants, one that makes devices and the other that makes drugs, are combining forces to develop an implantable drug-delivery system to treat Parkinson's disease. Medtronic and Eli Lilly say they're going to take a crack at delivering a protein called GDNF (glial cell line derived neurotrophic factor), which promotes nerve cell survival and is considered one of the most promising potential treatments for Parkinson's. The problem, though, has been how to deliver GDNF to the precise spot where it can do some good.

"We have to deliver it to the right area because proteins can't cross the blood-brain barrier," Stephen Oesterle, Medtronic's senior vice president for medicine and technology, told Bloomberg. "We use a navigation system and an implantable pump that stores the biologic and continuously infuses it to mimic human biology."

Reuters reports that other companies, including Amgen, have tried and failed to deliver the drug. Ros Smith, senior director of regenerative biology at Lilly, tells Reuters that this time will be different because Lilly's drug is a new formulation of GDNF that will be delivered by Medtronic's improved programmable pump and catheter.

"We are maximizing the potential for this therapy's efficient and effective development," Michael Hutton, chief scientific officer of neurodegeneration at Lilly, told Bloomberg. We "are hopeful that early testing of our biologic with Medtronic's device will provide the necessary data to safely advance into human studies."

- take a look at Bloomberg's story
- and a report from Reuters