Lilly partners with NIH for rare-disease research

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Although small biotechs are often associated with rare-disease research, a recent announcement by the National Institutes of Health has officially roped in the bigger players. The government organization has partnered with Eli Lilly to develop a long-acting parathyroid hormone analog for hypoparathyroidism, a condition in which the body produces too little parathormone.

The NIH's Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases is kicking in money for the study, which is part of a wider announcement that includes two other rare-disease conditions that are being explored: LEOPARD syndrome, which is associated with a rare cardiac disorder, and retinitis pigmentosa, a severe form of hereditary blindness.

NIH notes in its announcement that private companies generally avoid small-population diseases because the return on investment is expected to be poor. This is despite some surface incentives, such as smaller clinical trials and prescription prices that can be in the hundreds of thousands. The NIH said in the announcement that efforts like funding research through the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Disease programs are meant to help de-risk exploration and “make possible new drugs more commercially viable and attractive to outside partners.”

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