UU researchers develop novel diabetes drugs

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Diabetes mellitus Diabetes

Researchers are developing breakthrough diabetes drugs that use
modified forms of a naturally occurring molecule produced by the
body. The approach characterises the major investments by the
biopharmaceutical industry to develop and acquire therapeutic and
diagnostic solutions for diabetes.

News of this research comes after a UN World Health Organisation report identified diabetes as one of the major health issues facing the world in the 21st century. Current statistics report approximately 150 million diagnosed cases of diabetes worldwide.

The hope is that this research will result in new drugs that offer improvements or enhancement over current drugs.

Existing and emerging diabetes therapies suffer from shortcomings such as poor efficacy, difficult dosing regimens and adverse side effects.

Researchers from the University of Ulster​ (UU) discovered that by generating stable long-acting forms of GIP, two principal modes of anti-diabetic action could be achieved.

GIP has been shown to offer considerable potential as a highly effective, tumour specific, non-toxic therapeutic for the treatment of a variety of oncological diseases, including non small cell lung, hormone dependent and hormone independent ductile and glandular breast and prostate cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, melanoma and other cancer types

Previous research by the team has culminated in two distinct therapeutic products developed from GIP, which is released into the blood following eating.

Preclinical studies have revealed that both therapeutic products exhibit potent glucose-lowering actions mediated by either increasing circulating insulin or enhancing insulin action.

The pioneering research of the UU team has resulted in the formation of a new company to develop production of new anti-diabetic agents.

"The holy grail of diabetes treatment is safe and effective management of blood glucose,"​ said Dr Neville McClenaghan, a prime mover in the new company Diabetica Limited.

"We believe that novel molecules arising from GIP technology should provide new tools to help individuals better control the condition known as Type 2 diabetes."

Diabetes is a complex metabolic disorder clinically defined by high blood glucose levels resulting from a relative or absolute absence of insulin-production coupled with defective insulin action in body tissues.

The latter is a defining characteristic of the 'metabolic syndrome' and is an important link between Type 2 diabetes and other conditions including obesity, heart disease and stroke.

In diabetes there is a breakdown in the person's ability to regulate blood-glucose levels, and thus pharmacological treatments are required to bring the blood glucose levels back down to safe levels.

The main pharmacological approaches to the treatment of diabetes are focussed on replacing insulin by injection or the use of drugs, which either increase circulating insulin or enhance its action on insulin-sensitive tissues.

"Diabetes and the related conditions, metabolic syndrome and obesity, are reaching epidemic proportions and thus are major healthcare challenges. This clearly prompts the development of new and innovative approaches for effective management and treatment of this complex disease,"​ said McClenaghan.

GIP-based therapies are new approaches, which offer advantages over existing and emerging diabetes/obesity therapies. It currently has two GIP drugs in its pipeline - Incretide and Metalog, whose actions are regulated by circulating levels of blood glucose.

McClenaghan added: "We now wish to take our GIP drugs through formal clinical evaluation. Clinical trials are a vital step along the way to full approval and prescribed use of any drug."

"Thus, we anticipate that Incretide and Metalog will offer the individual immediate advantages associated with better control of blood glucose levels and reducing the likelihood of development of complications associated with long-term hyperglycaemia."

Diabetes affects 150m people globally, tripling the number in 1955. The World Health Organisation predicts diabetes deaths in UK to soar from 33,000 this year to 41,000 by 2015.

The UK Department of Health spends £4 billion per year on treating diabetes - 5 per cent of the entire NHS budget

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