Novo Nordisk looks to ‘eliminate hypoglycaemia’ with $800m insulin deal

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Grinvalds)
(Image: Getty/Grinvalds)

Related tags Novo nordisk Insulin Carbometrics Diabetes

Novo Nordisk has acquired Ziylo to gain access to a glucose responsive insulin platform it says could help eliminate hypoglycaemic episodes.

Ziylo, a Bristol, UK-based start up, accepted the offer that could eventually grow to be worth in excess of $800m (€694m). Novo Nordisk will acquire the firm outright but with the upfront fee for Ziylo not disclosed, it is unclear how much of this fee will be made up of development and commercial milestones.

The acquisition gives full rights to Ziylo’s glucose binding molecule (GBM) platform, which Novo Nordisk said could lead to an insulin treatment that is safer and more effective than current options.

A spokesperson for Novo Nordisk outlined to us why Ziylo’s platform had caught the Danish drugmaker’s eye: “A glucose responsive insulin would meet a very important need for people with diabetes, who have difficulties obtaining good glucose control with today’s insulins. It is also a very challenging and difficult task to develop such insulins.”

Ziylo was founded as a company in 2014 and the return of an $800m buyout in just four years is significant; however, according to Bristol University​, from which the start up began life, one of the co-founders, Anthony Davis, has been working in the area of synthetic sugar receptors for the last 20 years and the buyout represents a culmination of his work in the area.

Prior to the deal being sealed, it was announced another company would be spun out from Ziylo, in the form of Carbometrics – a company that has immediately entered into a research collaboration with Novo Nordisk in regards to glucose binding molecules.

Looking to the future

The spokesperson for Novo Nordisk highlighted the potential significance of the work being done: “A glucose responsive insulin would help eliminate or minimise the risk of hypoglycaemia, which is the main risk associated with insulin therapy and one of the main barriers for achieving optimal glucose control. Thus, a glucose responsive insulin could also lead to better metabolic control and thus overall reduce the burden of diabetes for people living with the disease.”

When asked about what the long-term plans for the platform would be, the spokesperson stated that it is the company’s aim to be the first to bring a glucose responsive insulin to market.

There is still some way to go as yet, with the technology still being in the preclinical phase and the spokesperson commenting that it would “take some years​” before the company is able to enter the clinical trial phase.

Novo Nordisk’s push to acquire innovations in the insulin market comes after it missed out on acquiring Ablynx​, a developer of therapeutics nanobodies, to rival Sanofi.

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