Catabasis Begins Human Trials of Omega-3-Inspired Diabetes Treatment

10/20/11Follow @arleneweintraub

After Jill Milne and Michael Jirousek left their positions at Sirtris Pharmaceuticals in 2008, they decided to pursue a titillating but still largely unproven idea: that fighting inflammation might help control Type 2 diabetes. On October 5, their startup, Cambridge, MA-based Catabasis Pharmaceuticals, began to test that theory in humans for the first time, with the initiation of a clinical trial of the company’s lead drug, CAT-1004.

Catabasis created the drug by combining two well-known types of anti-inflammatory compounds: salicylate and omega-3 fatty acids, which are typically found in fish oil. While the founders don’t expect their drug will replace commonly used diabetes treatments such as metformin, they believe it could be an important add-on. Inflammation has been linked with insulin resistance and the spiraling complications of diabetes such as heart diseases and blindness. “Inflammation in Type 2 diabetes is one of the hottest areas being looked at today, because if you were able to safely and effectively target it, you would produce disease modification,” says Jirousek, chief scientific officer of Catabasis.

The company’s first study is designed to measure the safety of CAT-1004, as well as its “pharmacokinetics,” such as how its absorbed and distributed in the body. If all goes well, the company could initiate a Phase 2 study next year, says Joanne Donovan, Catabasis’ chief medical officer. Although the earliest studies will test CAT-1004 in isolation, later studies will likely include patients who are taking metformin and other therapies, but still don’t have their glucose under control, she says.

Catabasis raised $39.6 million last spring from SV Life Sciences, Clarus Ventures, Advanced Technology Ventures (ATV), and Medimmune Ventures. Milne, who is Catabasis’ CEO, says that’s enough to take CAT-1004 … Next Page »

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