Eli Lilly’s tau drug marks shift in Alzheimer’s research

Eli Lilly’s tau drug marks shift in Alzheimer’s research

Eli Lilly has spent nearly thirty years working on drugs for Alzheimer’s disease, but didn’t come up with much until recently. In 2016, the company started human tests with the help of an entirely fresh approach. The company’s most recent drug aims at an aberrant protein known as tau that spreads across the brain as Alzheimer’s progresses, storing in telltale tangles that choke brain cells.

The company’s latest drug tau has made way for a shift in Alzheimer’s research. Since long, drug companies have focused on some other protein known as amyloid that clusters in the brains of the people suffering from Alzheimer’s and is thought to prompt the disease.

Companies have spent billions on amyloid-blocking drugs but haven’t got that much success. Eli Lilly stopped trials of semagacestat in 2010 after the condition of the patients on the drug became worse more rapidly in comparison to those on a placebo.


Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson disclosed results of huge trials in 2012, showing that their amyloid treatment failed to slow progression of the disease. According to Bernard Munos, a senior fellow at FasterCures, a health nonprofit, overall minimal 190 Alzheimer’s drugs have failed in human trials.

In America, over 5 million people suffer from the disease, and the number could go up to 13.8 million by 2050, as per the Alzheimer’s Association. The present drugs, most of which treat symptoms, have joint sales of nearly $3 billion presently.

Sam Fazeli, senior pharmaceuticals analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, said, “If any of these drugs actually manage to slow the progress of the disease, their sales potential would be orders of magnitude higher”.


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