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JDRF, Sanofi expand research collaboration for insulin-dependent diabetes

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

JDRF, a global organization funding and advocating for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research, and Sanofi U.S. Services, a subsidiary of Sanofi, 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 insulina 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, N.J.-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.” 

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