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After a 33-year odyssey, Jeffrey Bluestone grabs a ringside seat to watch his drug teplizumab go back into the clinic

Back in the fall of 2010, Eli Lilly wasted little time scuttling a slate of late-stage studies and walking away from a billion-dollar development deal as the pharma giant abruptly abandoned its diabetes drug teplizumab after watching the first pivotal go down in flames.

But when Lilly — then suffering one of the worst R&D droughts in its history — abandoned the drug and handed it all back to MacroGenics, which put it on the shelf and left it there, one scientist kept the faith.

Jeffrey Bluestone had started working on teplizumab in his lab in 1986, and he had lots of unanswered questions about the drug.

“It was as hard for me as anyone who was passionate about it, as might be expected,” says Bluestone.

We exchanged a couple of messages on the drug over the years, as Bluestone kept probing the drug’s potential in animal studies and asking himself why the Phase III program soured after so much work and investment. Now a renowned immunologist at UCSF and head of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, Bluestone is watching his drug as it’s about to go back into the clinic 33 years after he started working on it.

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