The Greater Boston Diabetes Cluster

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Columbia University geneticist Gerard Karsenty that a protein produced in bones can protect insulin as well as insulin-making cells in the pancreas.

Cambridge, MA

Type 2 diabetes is just one of the diseases of aging that Cambridge, MA-based Sirtris aims to treat with its drugs, which activate enzymes called sirtuins that are believed slow the aging process and aid metabolism. As I noted last week, this homegrown biotech firm’s story is known widely, and London-based drug giant GlaxoSmithKline obviously took a shine to Sirtris, paying $720 million for the company last year.

Beverly, MA

SmartCells is tackling the problem diabetics face in keeping their blood sugar levels steady. The firm’s drug incorporates a polymer molecule that releases insulin only when blood glucose rises to a certain concentration; Todd Zion, CEO and co-founder of the startup, began developing the polymer technology while in graduate school at MIT.

Syndexa Pharmaceuticals
Cambridge, MA

Syndexa is also in the very early stages of researching drugs that target protein functions that could provide treatments for Type 2 diabetes or other metabolic disorders. The startup, which announced a $15 million second round of financing last May, has licensed technology from researchers such as Harvard School of Public Health scientist Gokhan Hotamisligil, whose research focuses on how sugars and fats are metabolized.

Cambridge, MA

ToleRx is trying to succeed where several other biotech firms have failed: in commercializing drugs that teach the immune system how to tolerate molecules that it would otherwise attack. This is the idea behind the firm’s lead antibody drug for Type 1 diabetes, a disease in which the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The drug, for which ToleRx inked a $760 million collaboration deal with Glaxo, is in late-stage clinical trials.

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3 responses to “The Greater Boston Diabetes Cluster”

  1. Don’t forget that the Joslin Diabetes Research Center–one of top in the world–is here as well.

  2. You missed Covidien from Mansfield.
    They are working hard on educating people about the resolution of type 2 diabetes through gastric bypass surgery.

  3. Scott says:

    You did not include Biodel, Inc., which is based in Danbury, Connecticut. At present, BIOD has a rapid-acting version of biosynthetic human insulin pending FDA approval they are calling Linjeta(TM) which is not an insulin analogue, but removes zinc from the insulin molecule using ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (usually abbreviated as “EDTA”) which destabilizes the hexamer of the insulin molecule; then, by adding citric acid, which masks the surface charges and further destabilizes the insulin molecule so that it does not form hexamers as it would normally when injected into the skin without these modifications.

    Although it was not approved in October 2010 as many had anticipated, the company’s business plan always presumed the product would not be sold until 2011 anyway. Beyond that, BIOD has several interesting items beyond Linjeta in its pipeline including an adjustable basal insulin analogue, and a stable form of the counterregulatory hormone glucagon, as well as a sublingual form of insulin that can be taken orally.