Lilly pumps $50M into Purdue pact to study intrathecal and nanoparticle drug delivery

Eli Lilly is plowing a further $50 million into its research collaboration with Purdue University, signing up to work with its partner for another five years on challenges including intrathecal and nanoparticle drug delivery.

Lilly entered into a five-year, $52 million research collaboration with the university in 2017. That agreement positioned the drugmaker to tap into Purdue’s expertise to improve delivery of injectable medicines. Lilly identified the university as a potential enabler of its goals of reducing pain, decreasing the number of injections and enabling better patient compliance and overall health.

With the original agreement coming to an end, Lilly has struck a deal to extend the research alliance by five years. The Big Pharma has signed a new $50 million master agreement to continue the collaboration and work with Purdue on genetic medicine, intrathecal delivery and nanoparticle drug delivery.

Intrathecal delivery entails the injection of drugs into the fluid that fills the space between thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord. Physicians use the route of administration to treat cancers that have spread, or may spread, to the cerebrospinal fluid. 

More recently, intrathecal delivery has emerged as a potential way to get gene therapies to targets in the nervous system, although the approach has faced regulatory scrutiny. A Novartis program was on hold for almost two years while the drugmaker generated data to address concerns, including about the risk of dorsal root ganglia injury following administration. Lilly has moved into gene therapy in recent years. 

The $50 million commitment to the Purdue research collaboration is part of a broader $92.5 million pact with the university. Lilly will hand over the remaining $42.5 million over 10 years to fund pharmaceutical manufacturing scholarships.