Laura Steele, General Manager of Lilly UK, Ireland & Northern Europe, leads Lilly’s commercial business operations in six countries, across the company’s current and emerging portfolio in Diabetes, Oncology, Immunology and Neuroscience. For more than 30 years, Lilly has been committed to Alzheimer’s disease research and development with the ambition of bringing innovative Alzheimer’s disease therapies and diagnostics to patients who need them most. Lilly EU asked Laura about the achievements so far and the challenges of medicines development in Europe.

1. Why is Alzheimer’s such a priority for Lilly? How do you see your role as part of this effort?  
As one of the most common forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects the lives of millions of people across the world. This relentless neurodegenerative condition can have a devastating impact on people’s lives. Individuals with the disease lose their memories, their independence, their relationships. Estimates suggest that by 2050, cases of Alzheimer’s worldwide are expected to increase to 152 million. 

As General Manager for Lilly UK, Ireland and Northern Europe, I am proud of the relentless effort my colleagues have put into the research and development of potential treatments for Alzheimer’s over the last 30 years and look forward to being part of our continued efforts to bring hope to millions of patients across the world.

2. What role can Lilly play to ensure patients have access to the best possible care in Europe?
Given the complex nature of this illness and the number of people affected across the world, we will continue to do everything possible to improve our understanding of the disease and provide hope to patients.

There have been significant advances in the fight against Alzheimer’s and Lilly is proud of the part we have played in this so far. We remain committed to continuing our search for better care and preventative medicine and will continue to advocate for improvements in Alzheimer’s care and for increased funding for research and innovation in Europe and across the globe.

Studies have shown how Alzheimer’s begins damaging the brain 10-20 years before symptoms are displayed so timely and accurate diagnosis will significantly improve a patient’s chances.  We need to work together with healthcare systems to help prepare for scientific advances in Alzheimer’s treatment, allowing patients and their families to benefit as quickly as possible.

3. How is Lilly preparing to deliver innovations in Alzheimer’s disease to European patients in the next 5 to 10 years?

Lilly has been tireless in pursuing neuroscience research and development for over 30 years and we now have seven therapeutics and multiple diagnostics for neurodegeneration at various stages of clinical development.  Lilly is proud of the progress made to date and we are confident our scientific expertise and understanding of the disease will help us as we work in partnership with governments and healthcare providers to bring innovative therapies and diagnostics to patients. We look forward to seeing the impact of these discoveries for Alzheimer’s patients and their families over the coming years.

4. What are the key obstacles which prevent medicines being brought to Europeans sooner?
It takes an average of 12 years for a medicine to move from discovery in the lab to reaching patients. There are many challenges along the development path – as few as 0.01% molecules initially tested in a lab reach the final point of becoming a licenced medicine.

Companies need to invest in clinical trials to provide essential data on efficacy and safety, promising molecules may also need innovative methods of manufacturing, all of which can take several years. That data provides the evidence companies need to apply for a licence for new medicine through Europe’s central marketing authorisation is the European Medicines Agency (EMA), then national Health Technology Assessment (HTA) is also usually needed to provide a framework for local reimbursement.

At Lilly, we are dedicated to making life better for people. That is why we are committed to being a supportive partner of healthcare agencies to address health inequalities in the EU. We believe that by finding better, quicker and more practical solutions, we can do just that.