Kalamazoo, MI-based Metabolic Solutions Development Company, a company formed to develop drugs and discover new molecular targets in the treatment of insulin resistance, spent the weekend in Philadephia for the American Diabetes Association conference. While there, company officials presented findings about a newly discovered protein complex through which anti-diabetic drugs exert their insulin-sensitizing effects, says Metabolic Solutions CEO Stephen Benoit.
The target functions as a “sensor switch,” controlling metabolic processes that are out of balance in patients with type 2 diabetes, such as the processing of carbohydrates, lipids, and amino acids. Metabolic Solutions believes this new data will have an impact on treating diabetes, and may have a role in how the body utilizes glucose in patients with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our drugs go to the heart of the disease,” Benoit says. “We call it diabetes, but really it’s the body’s resistance to insulin. All the other drugs treat symptoms. They lower blood glucose but don’t improve the body’s functionality.” Benoit adds that the drugs Metabolic Solutions is working on don’t cause the side effects of other drugs currently on the market, like GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia (rosiglitazone), which remains controversial in the United States after it sparking thousands of lawsuits and becoming subject to significant restrictions on its usage.
Benoit says his researchers have been working on developing these new drugs since they worked for Upjohn in the late 1980s and early 1990s (before it was absorbed by Pfizer). They had pioneered the early development of insulin sensitizers but weren’t able to finish their work, so they founded Metabolic Solutions in 2006 and got right back to it, Benoit says. Metabolic Solutions has raised more than $50 million from investors like Hopen Life Sciences and the Southwest Michigan First Life Science fund. The company currently has 14 employees but plans to add three or four more as drug development progresses.
Benoit says the company is in the middle of raising $40 million to fund the development of its drugs. It currently has two compounds in mid-stage clinical trials: one that treats diabetes, and one that is focused on Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Benoit boldly predicts that by the end of 2014, his company will have the only insulin sensitizer in late-stage trials that lowers glucose, preserves insulin-producing beta cells, and decreases fat. “We think that is a fairly major milestone,” he says.
The end goal, Benoit says, is to partner with a large pharmaceutical company to get Metabolic Solutions’ drugs on the market. “If the drugs make it through clinical trials successfully, they could be available for patients in five years and give them new hope for the treatment of type 2 diabetes,” he says.