USA – Lilly CEO on future cancer deals, gene therapy and CAR T-cells

Eli Lilly and Co remains in the hunt for cancer drugs even after announcing an $8 billion purchase of Loxo Oncology this week, but it plans to remain on the sidelines when it comes to two of the hottest areas of drug development.

Lilly Chief Executive Dave Ricks told Reuters that as the company looks for deals to enhance its pipeline of future treatments it will leave CAR-T therapies for cancer and gene therapy for rare diseases to others, for now.

“The data is amazing, but practically, it’s not reaching many people,” Ricks said of CAR-T therapy, which involves extracting disease-fighting T-cells from a patient, re-engineering them to better recognize and attack cancer, and reinfusing them into the body.

Lilly on Monday said it would buy Loxo, which specializes in targeted cancer therapies, in the largest acquisition in the Indianapolis-based drugmaker’s 143-year history.

Loxo’s drugs interfere with specific genetic mutations that drive tumor growth.

The move came on the heels of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s proposed $74 billion purchase of Celgene Corp, raising expectations for more large-scale deals in the industry this year.

Under Ricks, who took the helm two years ago, Lilly has grown bolder in its acquisition strategy, a departure from his predecessors who long said the company’s growth would be fueled by in-house research.

In November, Lilly bought Armo BioSciences for $1.6 billion with the aim of improving its standing in the red-hot field of immuno-oncology. Lilly recognizes it was “late to the game” in the fast-growing and lucrative field of new cancer drugs, Ricks said in an interview at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco…