Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Has Merck Spent $500 Million To Get A Privately-Held "Smart Insulin Delivery" Proof-Of-Concept?

First, the very significant disclaimers: (i) the deal is merely a rumor at this point (as neither company has confirmed it -- and SmartCells won't, as it is privately-held); (ii) apparently the idea works in a tube, but hasn't been shown to work "in-vivo" -- in any living thing; (iii) the polymer conjugate nanostructural elements (represented by the orange wavy lines, at right -- click it to enlarge) is derived from a toxic substance, in its native state -- toxic to humans, that is (though it has been modified, with the aim of reducing its natural toxicity, in the blood); and finally, even if (iv) everything works perfectly, it will only reduce the needle-stick burden for diabetics to once a day, from twice or thrice a day.

[Image at right is public domain -- created entirely here. Take -- and use -- freely.]

Even so, it is an exciting concept, as reported by Jonathan D. Rockoff for the Wall Street Journal, tonight: the insulin is bound up in nano-structural bundles. These nano-structure-bundles are designed to swell in the presence of a significant level of glucose, and then (the orange) cross-bonds break, releasing just enough insulin molecules from their bundles to lower glucose levels. Variable release with a single daily dosing. That is the goal.

Is it worth $500 million today? I don't know. SmartCells has an issued patent, and clearly, if the approach works, that patent will be vastly valuable -- but there is no clinical trial program. That is still years away. Still, half-a-billion dollars may be a fair price. We'll see -- if it even is a deal, at this point.

Here is a bit of the reporting -- do go read it all:

. . . .The deal for SmartCells Inc. would exceed $500 million if various milestones for development, regulatory approval and sales are met, the person said. It's the latest in a string of biotech purchases by major drug makers looking to replace aging blockbuster drugs. . . .

Usually several times a day, insulin-dependent patients must stick themselves to check their blood sugar and then inject themselves with insulin.

The new approach under development would require as few as one injection a day, with a new form of "glucose-responsive" insulin that would adjust throughout the day to changing blood-sugar levels. This "SmartInsulin," first developed in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology laboratory, hasn't yet been tested in humans, but SmartCells has said the method has shown promise in preclinical testing. . . .

BONUS -- for the budding-nano-biologist in you, here is SmartCell CEO Todd C. Zion's original MIT research on the "smart nanoparticle delivering insulin" topic, circa 2003 -- as a 7 page PDF file. Gotta' love Google Scholar!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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