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Lilly Hires PGx Consultancy Cabernet to Help Guide Drug Development

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - Eli Lilly has hired the pharmacogenetics consultancy firm Cabernet Pharmaceuticals to help it make PGx-guided drug development decisions.
“Under the agreement, Cabernet consultants will join clinical development teams at Lilly to assist in applying pharmacogenetics to selected development projects,” Cabernet and Lilly said in a statement.
However, both Cabernet and Lilly are keeping a tight lid on which specific drug programs they are applying PGx strategies.
“The scope of the work will range across development projects designated by Lilly,” Allen Roses, CEO of the Durham, NC-based PGx consulting start up, told GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week. “The focus here is PGx as it can really fit in with the day-to-day work of drug development and help to inform pipeline decisions.”
Cabernet specializes in applying PGx strategies to the drug development and post-marketing setting; designing PGx studies; communicating PGx data to regulatory authorities; genotyping samples; facilitating DNA collection; and obtaining informed consent during clinical trials.
“Which types of service Lilly will use will be up to Lilly. What Cabernet is offering is a flexible resource, so that clients can take what they need while managing the dynamic progression of their pipelines,” Roses added.
Lilly has long said that it is committed to employing pharmacogenetic strategies for improving the safety and efficacy of its drugs. According to company officials, as much as 90 percent of drugs in clinical development at Lilly have biomarkers associated with them and these biomarkers come into play earlier in drug development to help make go/no-go decisions and run more efficient trials. 
Roses, director of Duke University’s Deane Drug Discovery Institute and former head of genetics research at GlaxoSmithKline, launched Cabernet earlier this year. He said in January that he intended to staff Cabernet with the “brain power … at the universities and the know-how across the pipeline … in big pharma.”
Roses said that Cabernet is currently staffed by PGx experts from industry. However, he noted that the company is looking to hire additional experts from industry and academia who have experience applying pharmacogenetics to an R&D pipeline. Lilly is Cabernet’s first customer.
“Cabernet provides highly trained individuals that complement our existing work force,” Stephen Eck, Lilly’s VP of translational medicine and pharmacogenomics, told Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week. “The current arrangement allows us to rapidly expand our capability and capacity while creating a more flexible cost base.”
While PGx has often been shunned by pharma for being the poison pill to its blockbuster strategy, industry observers have long held that drug companies will eventually warm to pharmacogenetics strategies in order to reduce attrition rates and run more cost-effective clinical trials. Several pharmas, like Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis, and even Lilly, have tepidly acknowledged that they are experimenting with PGx internally, while still keeping an eye on the blockbuster homerun.
However, this partnership with Cabernet to implement PGx strategies in its drug development could signal a new level of commitment to personalized medicine at Lilly.
“Understanding the genetic contribution to variations in response to new medicines, primarily safety and efficacy, is highly cost effective,” Lilly’s Eck said, without providing any specifics. “Knowing which patients derive the most benefit from a new medicine will improve uptake by physicians and patients. In the long run this creates value for all parties.”
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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