Is Eli Lilly Narrowing in on the Billion Dollar Prize?

The search for an Alzheimer’s cure has drawn in many of the major pharmaceutical companies; Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) have all made attempts in the past year to develop a treatment for the disease and capitalize on the billion-dollar market such a drug could command.

Earlier this month, shares of the Indianapolis-based drugmaker Eli Lilly topped $50 for the first time in more than four years as the result of favorable trial results for its drug solanezumab. The company’s shares gained more than 5 percent after researchers said the combined results from two studies of the Alzheimer’s drug indicated that it could modestly slow mental decline in patients who have not yet developed symptoms.

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A Friday announcement by the European Medicines Agency showed that Lilly has made further progress in diagnosing the disease.

The agency has determined that the radioactive dye Amyvid, developed by Lilly, could assist in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The imaging agent binds to the toxic protein beta amyloid that is found in the brains of patients suffering from the disease, which would allow doctors to see the plaque light up on a positron emission tomography scan.

Solanezumab suffered a setback in early August after the drug failed to arrest mental decline in patients with mild to moderate symptoms. However, the drug’s ability to alleviate symptoms before they appear has prompted further testing by Washington University’s Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network Trials Unit.

As Reuters reported, “an early hint that something is wrong might improve the success of drugs meant to prevent or delay disease progression.”

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