Diabetes a sweet spot for collaboration

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Novartis’ Genomics Institute forge diabetes drug partnership

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NEW YORK—The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)will collaborate with Novartis' genomics research arm in a drug discovery anddevelopment program focused on type 1 diabetes, the parties announced inAugust.
The JDRF and the Genomics Institute of the Novartis ResearchFoundation (GNF) will create a diabetes drug discovery and developmentplatform. The four-year program is one of the largest and most comprehensivecollaborations in the 40-year history of JDRF, a leader in setting the agendafor diabetes research worldwide and the largest charitable funder and advocateof type 1 diabetes research.
According to Dr. Alan J. Lewis, president and CEO of JDRF,the agreement with GNF opens exciting new avenues for JDRF to speed thetranslation of basic research into drugs and treatments for type 1 diabetes.
"By creating this highly interactive collaboration with aworld class organization with demonstrated expertise in discovering anddeveloping innovative therapeutics for medical needs, we are looking to expandboth the targets and the realm of possible treatments that can benefit peopleliving with diabetes," he says.
San Diego-based GNF conducts genomics and proteomicsresearch that includes high-throughput screening of genes and compounds,structural genomics and mammalian genetics, among others.
When considering the partnership, there were several factorsthat made Genomics Institute a good fit for the JDRF, according to Dr. PatriciaKillian, director of regeneration at JDRF. The foundation, she says, believesit is critical to form partnerships with major pharma and biotechs in order tospeed the translation of basic research findings into clinical realities forpeople with diabetes.
"The GNF-JDRF partnership to support drug discovery anddevelopment is addressing this critical gap in the diabetes drug developmentpipeline," she says. "GNF has the resources and capabilities to fill thecritical gap to help advance JDRF's drug discovery pipeline from targetdiscovery and validation to high-throughput screening, lead optimization,animal pharmacology and each stage through IND by enabling studies for type 1diabetes therapeutics—with a built-in potential for uptake by Novartis forclinical trials."
Killian adds the Genomic Institute also has demonstratedsuccess over the years in helping to advance drug candidates with Novartis in arange of therapeutic areas, and the team, composed of more than 550 scientistsand technical staff, is committed to finding new treatments for diabetes.
The focus of the collaboration between the JDRF and GNF isto deliver a succession of drug candidates to the clinic over the next fouryears. The initial focus will be on pancreatic beta cell regeneration andsurvival to restore beta cell function in diabetes. The program builds oncurrent JDRF funding at GNF that has resulted in the discovery of beta cellregeneration drug targets and candidates, and allows for the inclusion ofJDRF-funded projects and other discoveries into the program.
"Through this collaboration with JDRF, we are looking tocreate a unique program of translational research that fully exploits thestrengths of each partner to produce a continuous source of novel insights,drug targets, and drug candidates," says Dr. Peter Schultz, lead GNFinvestigator and institute director.
JDRF, Schultz and GNF aren't strangers to each other, andaccording to Killian, the partnership isn't the first time that the foundationand the Genomics Institute have worked together.
"Since September 2007, JDRF has provided research funding toDr. Peter Schultz and his team to investigate a chemical approach to beta cellregeneration," she notes. "The goal of the grant award made at that time was toidentify chemicals that promote the replication of pancreatic beta-cells byscreening a large chemical library, to improve these molecules through chemicalmodification, and to study the mechanisms of these compounds and show that theycan induce beta-cell regeneration in an animal model."
Projects within the collaboration will be chosen and managedby a combined review committee of JDRF and GNF representatives, with oversightfrom a scientific advisory board and JDRF volunteers.
"As part of this program, GNF has an agreement with Novartisregarding commercialization rights, as is true of all GNF activities," addsKillian. "There are provisions in the JDRF-GNF agreement if Novartis declinesto exercise its commercialization option, which would allow for the continuedadvancement of discoveries made in the program toward the clinic."
Killian also points out that the long-term goal of thepartnership will be to deliver a succession of novel IND candidates forout-licensing or co-development for people at all stages of type 1 diabetes(established disease, new-onset, at-risk). 
"The pipeline of drug candidates may build on ongoing GNF programsand expertise new programs initiated at GNF, and academic partnerships," shesays. "By bringing together JDRF's research networks, early discovery pipeline,knowledge and leading position in the diabetes research world, with GNF'sexpertise in high-throughput chemistry, cell biology and various technologies,resources and know-how in drug discovery and development, the proposedpartnership strives to create a unique translational program for type 1diabetes."
The result, according to Dr. Richard A. Insel, executivevice president for research at JDRF, is an exciting evolution of thefoundation's research strategy for discovering and developing diabetestherapeutics.
"The partnership provides JDRF access to a highly talentedgroup of scientists, state-of-the-art drug discovery technology, and anorganization with a proven track record of delivering drugs to the clinic toaddress a critical gap in research—advancing basic research, often arising fromacademia, into drug discovery and development," he says. "The JDRF-GNFpartnership should jumpstart the creation of a multi-product pipeline for betacell regeneration, a therapeutic priority for JDRF."

Diabetes? There's an app for that
AgaMatrix unveils WaveSense Diabetes Manager, a diabeteslogbook software application for the iPhone and iPod Touch
SALEM, N.H.—AgaMatrix has announced the debut of WaveSenseDiabetes Manager, a diabetes logbook software application for iPhone and iPodTouch.
AgaMatgrix produces the WaveSense line of blood glucose monitoringproducts.
The WaveSense App is the first of its kind to be developedby a blood glucose meter manufacturer that is now available on the iTunes AppStore by Apple Inc. The app is available for download at no charge. The companysays its app, in development and testing for over a year, lays the foundationfor a series of products to come that will take advantage of the iPhone andother mobile technology platforms to assist people with diabetes in themanagement of their disease.
The WaveSense Diabetes Manager can help users track theirglucose results, carbohydrate intake and insulin doses. All that's needed is toinput the data the app asks  for onthe iPhones, and within seconds, it's possible to review data includingconvenient charts and graphs and gain a new perspective on diabetes management.The software also allows e-mailing of those charts to a professional healthcareteam if users wanted to have a second opinion.
"Leveraging mobile technology to deliver better patient careis a major trend in the making and has the potential to transform themanagement of chronic diseases, such as diabetes," says Dr. Irl Hirsch, aninternationally recognized diabetes specialist and professor of medicine at theUniversity of Washington. "With the launch of the WaveSense Diabetes Manager,WaveSense is setting the bar in the new disease management paradigm with acombination of an extensive feature set and very intuitive user interface. I'meagerly awaiting their pipeline of products which will no doubt be cutting-edgeand first-in-category."
Benjamin Satterfield, CEO of 23 Divide and creator ofGigotron, says he has been involved with the development of several apps forthe App Store, and in a statement says he is "impressed with this medical app'soutstanding utility and thoughtful design."
"I'm personally excited by the app because it affects me ona more personal level since my grandfather suffers from diabetes," saysSatterfield.

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