Companies such as Eli Lilly and Co. have made profitable businesses out of treating diseases such as diabetes, even though everyone acknowledges that treatments such as insulin are sub-optimal. As more becomes known about the mechanisms of diabetes and other metabolic conditions, raising the possibility of preventive drugs and improved treatments, these companies are looking to modernize their portfolios.

Emblematic of such a modernization strategy is Lilly's deal with Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc., in which the pharma company could spend more than $200 million to apply LGND's technology to metabolic disorders (see BioCentury Extra, Oct. 21). Lilly (Indianapolis, Ind.), which already markets human insulin for late stage diabetes, has committed itself to programs in diabetes prevention as well as treatment. The undertaking broadens Lilly's focus to include metabolic diseases such as obesity and dislipidemia and the related disorders of hypertension and atherosclerosis.