US firm working on oral alternative to insulin

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on December 29, 2019 Published on December 29, 2019

Patient injects herself with an insulin pen

Here is some sweet news for diabetics from Alltech Life Sciences. A possible & affordable alternative to insulin is in the offing.

Researchers at the Kentucky, US based, $2billion, animal nutrition major have developed a compound that could make painful injections, pumps and pens to administer insulin and maintain blood glucose levels in diabetics passé.

The compound called NPC43 is effective when administered either orally or by injection. The implications could extend beyond diabetes to any syndrome or disease associated with insulin resistance. This may include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), heart related disease, and obesity, say Alltech researchers.

There are an estimated 450 million people living with diabetes worldwide according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), with a staggering over 50 per cent increase expected by 2045.

In 2020, “We will decide on how to take the product to the market in the near future. Since investment for further development is also high, partnerships is the best way forward”, said Mark Lyons, President and CEO of Alltech.

One other option is to license the compound to a Pharma major. The challenge is to get the product across regulatory bodies and the Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for its efficacy and safety in humans, which will take a few years and millions of dollars.

Mechanism of action

The results from 12 years of scientific research were published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. The paper details the development of the novel treatment for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Explaining the mechanism in a paper, Ronan Power, the Chief Scientific Officer said: “Imagine insulin to be a key and an insulin receptor to be a lock that allows glucose to enter cells.”

“Type 1 diabetics can’t produce keys and, although Type 2 diabetics can, they possess broken locks. The result of either type is that the glucose door remains shut. What we have discovered is a way to open the lock without a key, even if the lock is broken,” he added. The next step will be clinical trials. The market for insulin products is estimated to be around $24billion.

Research focus

The Life Science Division of Alltech has been working on anti-ageing and diabetes over the past few decades.“We will be creating a scientific advisory board and five key science divisions in a bid to boost our work in the area”, Mark Lyons, who was in Hyderabad recently told BusinessLine.

The oral insulin replacement is a promising breakthrough for our efforts. With the guidance of Karl Dawson ( who retired this year) for over two decades and Ronan Power, the Chief Scientific Officer efforts will be made to give focus and push to research, he added.

Alltech has over 100 researchers, 20 global collaborations and bioscience centres in the US, China, Ireland and Netherlands. In India, the company has significant presence with manufacturing units in Pune for animal nutrition feed.

Published on December 29, 2019
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