The project, at a cost of CHF 2.1 million, (€1.4 million) each year for three years, also aims to identify new biomarkers of beta cell failure for diagnosing a disease that currently affects 120-140 million people worldwide. If trends continue, this number is predicted to double in the next 25 years.
Roche, along with the Competence Centre for Systems Physiology and Metabolic Diseases (CC-SPMD) of SystemsX, and the Swiss Initiative in Systems Biology, will participate in a joint research project entitled: "Systems biology of the beta cell-application to type 2 diabetes progression."
The project will include researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and University of Zurich, who will collaborate and exchange research results.
"This new, systems-oriented research approach, the integration of several disciplines and collaboration of outstanding scientists from academia and industry will allow us to obtain new insights on their impact on type 2 diabetes progression," said René Imhof, Head of Pharma Research, Basel.
In the Western world, around 90 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases are attributable to weight gain. Because of the severe health and cost implications of this disease, organisations such as the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) have called for increased efforts to prevent its development.
The IDF estimates that 314 million people worldwide, or 8.2 per cent of the global population, have impaired glucose tolerance, a state that often precedes type 2 diabetes.
"This holistic approach should ultimately replace the key physiological pathways at the centre of our attention, which is critical for our understanding of metabolic disorders," said Jacques Mizrahi, Global Therapy Area Head of Metabolic and Vascular Diseases, at Roche.
While Roche has a limited claim in the diabetes field its potential in the pipeline remains promising. However, the pharmaceutical giants are a major participant in the diagnostic end of diabetes with Accu-Chek blood glucose monitors, data management systems, insulin pumps and lancets.
One of Roche's diabetes pipeline candidates, R-483, is a predominantly PPAR-gamma activator which showed decent efficacy in Phase II studies. Following guidance from the FDA on the whole class regarding safety and toxicity,
Phase III trials are on hold until long-term toxicity studies are completed in second half of 2005. Assuming continued development, GS estimate a potential 2008 launch.