Pharmaceutical giants Lilly and Merck KGaA have taken a hit to their late-stage research and development pipelines with the failure of their respective experimental drugs for diabetes and cancer.

Lilly said it is canning Phase III diabetes therapy basal insulin peglispro (BIL) in order to focus research and development efforts on other assets in its portfolio and pipeline.

In February this year the drugmaker announced that it was putting on hold both US and EU submissions for the treatment to further explore potential effects of changes in liver fat seen in Phase III trials. 

Lilly stressed that its decision to discontinue development was not driven by any new safety signals on this, but came following discussions with regulatory authorities and other external experts over potential development plans for BIL therapy.

“Moving forward would have required a significant amount of time and investment without any assurance of findings conclusive answers,” explained president Enrique Conterno.

Setback fo evofosfamide

Meanwhile, Merck is no longer intending to file for approval of evofosfamide in advanced soft tissue sarcoma and advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma, after two Phase III studies failed to hit primary targets of extending overall survival.

The firm said it would also make “a quick decision” on the future of the ongoing clinical programme for evofosfamide, an investigational hypoxia-activated prodrug of a bis-alkylating agent that is preferentially activated under severe tumour hypoxic conditions, a feature of many solid tumours.

Resources will now be redeployed into other high-profile future products, such as avelumab and all other priority programs in oncology, immuno-oncology and immunology, it noted.