Preventing hypoglycemia in people with type 1 diabetes
JDRF supports development of Zucara
JDRF has recently announced that it will contribute funding to Canada’s Zucara Therapeutics Inc., a preclinical life sciences company developing a new experimental treatment to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in patients with diabetes.
This funding builds on JDRF’s previous support of the work of Dr. Michael Riddell of York University and Dr. Richard Liggins of The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), the founding scientists behind Zucara.
The news will be well received by the diabetes community because hypoglycemia is a major source of anxiety and fear; it can be life-threatening and increase the incidence of complications, including cardiovascular effects.
“The initial support provided by JDRF allowed us to establish the proof-of-principle for the technology, and now this new investment by JDRF will allow this innovation to be further advanced toward commercialization and patient use,” says Dr. Liggins. “By working with a leading partner like JDRF, Zucara is poised to change the lives of diabetes patients around the world.”
How the new drug works
In diabetes, the alpha cells in the pancreas can become stimulated to overproduce a hormone called somatostatin, which suppresses glucagon secretion. Glucagon is needed during hypoglycemia because it raises the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream. Zucara’s drug blocks somatostatin type 2 (SSTR2) receptors on alpha cells in the pancreas. As a result, the drug ‘turns on’ the pancreas’ ability to release glucagon during hypoglycemia.
Zucara’s technology will be the first treatment to prevent dangerously low blood sugar by restoring the body’s ability to counter-regulate hypoglycemia. This approach will decrease the likelihood of insulin therapy to cause hypoglycemia without changing its effectiveness. The immediate short-term benefits would include the reduced occurrence of hypoglycemia. In the long term, this treatment would allow people living with T1D to better regulate their blood sugar levels with insulin, resulting in improved overall long-term health.
This new investment by JDRF will permit Zucara to advance its lead clinical drug candidate through investigational new drug studies as it prepares for clinical testing beginning in 2019.