JDRF and Sanofi Announce Expansion of their Joint Research Collaboration to Include Development of Glucose Responsive Insulin Therapies for Treatment of Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

Up to $4.6 million is being committed to support four research projects taking different approaches to developing a revolutionary type of insulin

Feb 25, 2016, 10:00 ET from JDRF

NEW YORK, Feb. 25, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- JDRF, the leading global organization funding and advocating for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research, and Sanofi US Services Inc., a subsidiary of Sanofi, one of the leading insulin manufacturers and a global pharmaceutical company, have entered into new  agreements with four research organizations under their joint research collaboration to support development of glucose responsive insulins (GRIs), an alternate class of therapies that is expected to improve the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes, particularly T1D.

T1D is a life-threatening disease where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and kills the pancreatic cells that produce insulin—a hormone that is essential for life because of its role to help the body use glucose.

Currently there is no cure for T1D, and people living with the disease are dependent on insulin therapy to help keep their blood-sugar levels from spiking too high, which can lead to long-term complications such as kidney and heart diseases or an acute, potentially deadly health crisis. Present-day insulin therapy is, however, an imperfect treatment method that requires people with T1D to monitor their blood sugar throughout the day and take multiple, carefully calculated doses of insulin based on food intake, exercise, stress, illness and other factors.  A miscalculation or unexpected variable leading to high- or low-blood-sugar episodes are daily threats and only a third of people with T1D achieve their long-term blood glucose targets, placing them at risk for T1D-related complications.

"The Development of GRIs is aligned with JDRF's vision of less disease burden until none for people living with T1D. These drugs may be able to address many of the shortcomings and challenges of current insulin therapy by providing a treatment that can more reliably maintain blood sugar levels within a safe range and potentially help reduce the burden of managing T1D by minimizing dosing frequency," said JDRF Assistant Vice President of Translational Development Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D. "JDRF is committed to driving development of GRIs for the T1D community, and we are excited to partner with Sanofi because their knowledge and expertise in insulin development will help drive these research projects toward success."

The new projects under the collaboration build on JDRF's leadership in the GRI field and significantly expand our work to develop these novel insulins. Researchers supported through the collaboration aim to design therapeutic insulins that activate when blood-glucose levels become elevated and deactivate when blood-glucose levels begin to go low, preventing dangerous highs and lows.

JDRF and Sanofi will provide up to $4.6 million to accelerate innovation and development of GRIs. The selected projects will take different approaches to formulating and/or delivering GRIs. JDRF's highly experienced scientific team spearheaded efforts to select the projects, and they will continue to provide guidance throughout the discovery and translational phases of research. Sanofi's Research and Translational Medicine team will provide scientific expertise in insulin research and development to enhance successful transition of these research projects to human clinical development.

JDRF's funding of the GRI research projects selected for this expansion of the collaboration is made possible in part by a generous gift from the Agnes Varis Trust, an Englewood, NJ-based charitable trust that previously supported the 2013 JDRF GRI Grand Challenge Prize. 

"The development of Glucose Responsive Insulins would establish a potential improvement for people with diabetes," said Philip Larsen, M.D., Ph.D., Vice President and Global Head of Diabetes Research and Translational Medicine at Sanofi. "This project with JDRF underscores our ambition to establish a pipeline of innovative insulin products." 

The four researchers funded under the JDRF/Sanofi GRI expansion of the collaboration are:

  • Pasadena, Calif.-based researcher Alborz Mahdavi, Ph.D., whose startup, Protomer Technologies, will develop insulin analogs with engineered glucose responsivity. Dr. Mahdavi is one of three winners of the 2013 JDRF GRI Grand Challenge Prize—an innovation competition; 
  • Christoph Hagemeyer, Ph.D., of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, who will develop glucose-sensing nanoparticles; 
  • North Carolina State University/UNC Chapel Hill researcher Zhen Gu, Ph.D., who, among other things, will develop GRI patches;
  • University of Utah researcher and former JDRF postdoctoral fellow Danny Chou, Ph.D., who will explore an alternative approach to analog insulin so that it will deactivate once blood glucose drops below a certain level.

About JDRF
JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Our mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested nearly $2 billion in research funding since our inception. We are an organization built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on a national stage to pool resources, passion, and energy. We collaborate with academic institutions, policymakers, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers in more than 100 locations throughout the United States and our six international affiliates are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement and our vision of a world without T1D. For more information, please visit jdrf.org or follow us on Twitter: @JDRF.

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