Eisai mounts latest Alzheimer’s clinical trial leadership team

Eisai has put Michael Irizarry in charge of its Alzheimer’s disease clinical development programs. The ex-Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline researcher is taking on the role in the wake of aducanumab’s failure.
Some companies may have responded to the failure of aducanumab to pass a phase 3 interim futility test by retreating from the expensive, high-risk world of Alzheimer’s R&D. For better or worse, there is little evidence that Eisai is such a company.

The day after disclosing the failure of the Biogen-partnered aducanumab, Eisai revealed it had moved another beta-amyloid drug, BAN2401, into phase 3. And the Japanese drugmaker has now bolstered its Alzheimer’s team by hiring one person to handle clinical development and a second to support medical strategies and post-approval studies.

Irizarry is handling clinical development. Eisai hired Irizarry as vice president of clinical research for its epilepsy and sleep/wake therapeutic groups last year, but is now moving him across to the Alzheimer’s team, where he will take responsibility for clinical development and overall strategy of Eisai’s portfolio of drugs aimed at the challenging neurodegenerative disorder.

There is some overlap between Irizarry’s old and new briefs. Specifically, Eisai has run phase 2 trials of dual orexin receptor antagonist E2006, also known as lemborexant, in irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Eisai bought Purdue Pharma’s stake in the drug earlier this week.

Eisai unveiled the transfer of Irizarry to the new role alongside news of the appointment of Harald Hampel as VP, global medical affairs, Alzheimer’s. The appointment puts Hampel in charge of coming up with Eisai’s global medical strategies in Alzheimer’s and dementia. And he’ll oversee phase 3b and 4 clinical trials of Alzheimer’s drugs, if one makes it that far.

Hampel has spent his career working outside of industry, most recently as a professor at Sorbonne University in Paris. Earlier in his career, Hampel was founding director of the Alzheimer Memorial Center at the University of Munich.