Eli Lilly said on Wednesday that its experimental Alzheimer’s drug, according to a large study, has slowed the deterioration of the dreaded disease, sending its shares up 5% amid investor optimism about the results.

In an 18-month trial, people with early-stage Alzheimer’s who received an infusion of donanemab showed 35% less decline in thinking skills than people who received a placebo, Lilly. announced in a press release. About 6 million people in the US have Alzheimer’s disease, which gradually affects areas of the brain needed for memory, thinking, communication and daily activities.

Lilly shares jumped nearly $19, or 4.7%, to $423 in morning trading.

Eli Lilly’s drug is designed to target and remove a sticky protein called beta-amyloid that builds up in the brain-clogging plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

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A similar amyloid-targeting drug, Leqembi, from Eisai and Biogen, recently came to market with similar evidence that it might modestly slow Alzheimer’s — but also with some safety concerns, brain swelling or small brain hemorrhages.

Donanemab is also associated with this risk. In its study, Lilly said brain side effects caused the death of two participants, and a third also died after a serious episode.

Preliminary results of the study have not been verified by external experts. Lilly, based in Indianapolis, plans to release more details at an international Alzheimer’s meeting this summer and is seeking approval of the drug from the Food and Drug Administration.


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