The Greater Boston Diabetes Cluster
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Columbia University geneticist Gerard Karsenty that a protein produced in bones can protect insulin as well as insulin-making cells in the pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes is just one of the diseases of aging that Cambridge, MA-based Sirtris aims to treat with its drugs, which activate enzymes called sirtuins that are believed slow the aging process and aid metabolism. As I noted last week, this homegrown biotech firm’s story is known widely, and London-based drug giant GlaxoSmithKline obviously took a shine to Sirtris, paying $720 million for the company last year.
SmartCells is tackling the problem diabetics face in keeping their blood sugar levels steady. The firm’s drug incorporates a polymer molecule that releases insulin only when blood glucose rises to a certain concentration; Todd Zion, CEO and co-founder of the startup, began developing the polymer technology while in graduate school at MIT.
Syndexa is also in the very early stages of researching drugs that target protein functions that could provide treatments for Type 2 diabetes or other metabolic disorders. The startup, which announced a $15 million second round of financing last May, has licensed technology from researchers such as Harvard School of Public Health scientist Gokhan Hotamisligil, whose research focuses on how sugars and fats are metabolized.
ToleRx is trying to succeed where several other biotech firms have failed: in commercializing drugs that teach the immune system how to tolerate molecules that it would otherwise attack. This is the idea behind the firm’s lead antibody drug for Type 1 diabetes, a disease in which the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The drug, for which ToleRx inked a $760 million collaboration deal with Glaxo, is in late-stage clinical trials.