Medtronic Inc., the world’s largest maker of heart devices, and Eli Lilly & Co. said they are developing a Parkinson’s disease treatment that delivers an experimental medicine directly into the brain.
The approach will combine a protein from Lilly known to preserve the function of neurons with a system from Medtronic that carries the medicine to a key area of the brain. The treatment is in the earliest stages of development, and working together may provide the best chance of success, the companies said today in a statement.
The blending of Medtronic’s medical technology and Lilly’s biological medicine is designed to produce a therapy that can breach the blood-brain barrier, one of the biggest obstacles for treating neurological conditions. While it protects the brain from infection, the barrier makes it difficult to get antibodies used to treat some conditions into the brain.
“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, said in a telephone interview. “We use a navigation system and an implantable pump that stores the biologic and continuously infuses it to mimic human biology.”
As many as 10 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative condition caused by the death of brain neurons that produce the chemical dopamine used to control movement. The result is muscle weakness, tremors, stiffness, loss of coordination and eventually death. Existing drugs, such as the medication L-dopa, ease symptoms. There is no cure.
The experimental protein preserves the function of neurological cells that produce the dopamine missing in patients with Parkinson’s disease, Ros Smith, senior research director in regenerative biology at Indianapolis-based Lilly, said in a telephone interview.
“We are maximizing the potential for this therapy’s efficient and effective development,” said Michael Hutton, chief scientific officer of neurodegeneration at Lilly, maker of the antipsychotic therapy Zyprexa. We “are hopeful that early testing of our biologic with Medtronic’s device will provide the necessary data to safely advance into human studies.”
Medtronic rose 66 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $41.24 at 4:05 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Lilly gained 59 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $36.82.