Company news: Boehringer, Eli Lilly, Merck

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Eli Lilly and diabetes collaboration partner Boehringer Ingelheim kicked off the week with two pipeline items—the first being that the SGLT2 product empagliflozin hit its primary Phase III targets in four of the component studies which compared HbA1c levels in patients taking 10mg or 25mg doses, twice a day, compared to placebo. Empagliflozin is an experimental sodium glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitor, and the partners expect to file with regulators in the US, Europe and Japan this year. On the flip side, the partners have parted ways over the experimental pegylated insulin known as LY2605541: the companies said in a statement that Lilly will be taking full responsibility for development and commercialization from here on out. BI said in a statement that the divide will not affect other joint efforts, and the company decided to divest itself of the experimental treatment “given independent strategic portfolio considerations.” ISI analyst Mark Schoenebaum noted in a Monday research note that this translates into relieving Germany-based BI of $350 million in future milestone payments, as well as freeing the firm from shouldering the related R&D costs.

Preliminary Q4 numbers could signal a change at Dendreon. The Seattle company announced Monday that an initial snapshot of the financials indicates revenue will be around $81.6 million. That doesn't include a course-correcting charge back of around $3.8 million. President and CEO John Johnson attributed the results, which include a 58% revenue increase over the same period last year, to “improved sales execution and direct-to-patient initiatives.” The company has suffered major setbacks, including a widespread defection among its sales reps and layoffs. The company also sold off its Morris Plains, NJ, immunotherapy manufacturing facility in December for $43 million. The company's sole marketable product is the prostate cancer treatment, Provenge. It was approved in 2010. Dendreon has not announced when it will release its final numbers, but noted that it usually makes them public at the end of January or the beginning of February.

Digital startups raised $1.4 billion last year, and Merck was among the top three backers, reported Forbes, which said the drug maker channeled money to innovators through its Global Health Innovation Fund. Forbes added that Merck has invested in 15 startups since founding the fund three years ago, supporting projects such as a blood-pressure monitoring kiosk and a company that applies predictive modeling to drug development.
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