JPM2024: Lilly CEO David Ricks Weighs In on GLP-1s and AI


JPM2024: Lilly CEO David Ricks Weighs In on GLP-1s and AI

With the buzz in San Francisco beginning to slow down, some in the biopharma industry are still giving their analysis and predictions for the rest of the year. Speaking on a virtual panel hosted by Boston Consulting Group, Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks noted that this week in San Francisco was “upbeat,” driven by a cheerful “innovation cycle,” and that more M&A activity was kicking off that caused a bit of excitement.

“The result has produced quite a bit of value creation in the last 90 days,” Ricks said. “I think the pandemic kind of focused everything on that particular issue. And here now, I saw some more of a range of technology and interesting things happening, which was good.”

Among those non-COVID areas of interest are the advances and deals in the AI discovery space and the targeted oncology space, such as the antibody-drug conjugate arena and radiopharmaceuticals, Ricks said. In addition, he highlighted “the maturity of the nucleic acid therapeutics world,” referring to therapies based on a range of technologies involving RNA and DNA.

“We saw actual approvals and accurate data last year, and I think there’s quite a bit of energy in that space right now, which is great,” he said.

Another significant milestone, at least for Lilly, in 2023 was the approval of the weight loss drug Zepbound, which gives the Indiana-based pharmaceutical company a considerable entrance to a scorching and lucrative market. Ricks said that with GLP-1s, Lilly has moved to a “hyperbolic inflection point” due to the effects of weight loss drugs.

Ricks said that the GLP-1 class of drugs is forming what he dubbed a “success cycle.” This means people, especially those who are morbidly obese, that benefit from the medicine have the ability to be more active and participate in healthier events, leading to a “cycle” of better living. “People want these drugs,” he said.

Ricks also noted that if there can be better reimbursement for these drugs and a reduction in health equity issues, “we could probably change the life expectancy of Western nations.”

Outside of the weight loss space, Ricks said that Lilly will have some data readouts for sleep apnea and congestive heart failure.

Beyond Lilly’s pipeline, Ricks also addressed the hot-button issue of AI, and generative AI in particular. Ricks said that AI can improve productivity in manufacturing to reduce stoppages and produce a more efficient supply chain. And generative AI, he said, could greatly accelerate drug discovery—something Lilly is engaging in.

“The chemical space is vast. If you took every star that was visible to the sharpest telescope in the sky and multiplied it by 1 million, you’d still be far short of the possible organic chemicals we could create that could turn into medicine,” Ricks said. “So the human mind can’t conceptualize it, and the machines are good at developing interesting new starting points.”

Source: BioSpace