Precision medicine + diabetes

Time to break down diabetes into more subtypes than the amount of Wilford Brimley parodies there are on YouTube. Ok that might be an exaggeration because there are a TON, but Swedish & Finnish researchers are making an argument that we should probably have more than just the current two subtypes. They propose keeping Type 1 as its own thing, but expanding Type 2 into four clusters that are more descriptive of their causes. The basic breakdown is: Cluster 1, severe autoimmune (the former Type 1;) Cluster 2, severe insulin-deficiency; Cluster 3, severe insulin-resistant; Cluster 4, mild obesity-related; and Cluster 5, mild age-related. According to researcher Leif Groop, this is “a real step towards precision medicine. In the ideal scenario, this is applied at diagnosis and we target treatment better.” Increasingly patient-centric approaches will always get a thumbs-up from us.

Adding CAR-T to the shopping cart

How about some exciting, multi-billion dollar deals to spice up the first quarter? First, Sanofi acquired Bioverativ, a hemophilia-focused biopharmaceutical company that spun out of Biogen last February. Since losing patent protection, Sanofi has seen flagging revenue from their flagship Lantus products—which occupy the #4 and #15 spots on IQVIA’s list of Top Medicines by Invoice Spending—and they’re hoping Bioverativ can give their treatment portfolio a boost. Similarly, Celgene boosted their pipeline prospects by acquiring Juno Therapeutics, who have a promising CAR-T candidate expected to be FDA-approved in 2019. Celgene also recently bought Impact Biomedicines, all part of a strategy to preemptively address profit losses when their blood cancer drug Revlimid goes off-patent in a few years.

5000-to-1, here’s hoping these odds are better

What does the greatest upset in modern sports have to do with diabetes? Read on. Leicester has been selected as the first UK city for a Novo Nordisk-led global initiative, Cities Changing Diabetes, which aims to stop the rise of type II diabetes in urban areas. Turns out Leicester has one of the largest populations with diabetes – almost 9%, well above the UK average of 6.4%. The upset? We must apologize to our European readers that we have to explain to football-naïve Americans that last year the Leicester City Foxes held 5000-1 odds to win the Premier League, and they did. Not since Roy Hobbs propelled the NY Knights into the World Series has there been such an upset. Let’s win one for the Gipper and knock out diabetes. Sports.

Eli Lilly dropping half a million pounds

An intensely competitive pricing environment for diabetes treatments has led to declining performance and deep cuts at the Indianapolis-based drug giant. Lilly plans to cut 3,500 employees, mostly by year end, and many through an early retirement program. (For the record, this writer would appreciate an early retirement program.) Other reductions will be achieved by closing a manufacturing facility in Larchwood, IA., and shuttering R&D facilities in Bridgewater, NJ and Shanghai, China. Lilly expects to incur one-time charges of approximately $1.2B and achieve $500M in annual savings.

Safe T first

Yay, we get to write another article about fewer needles in the lives of diabetics! Researchers in London are working on an immunotherapy approach to slow down the progression of Type I Diabetes, which would ideally result in a future where those diabetics won’t have to inject insulin daily. The disease works by attacking insulin-producing cells, so the scientists decided to try to get the lazy part of the immune system that wasn’t stopping that—regulatory T cells—to stop playing video games and get a job! (Sorry. Too close to home?) The scientists proved the safety of this approach in a recent Phase I study, so it will be a while before anything is marketed to the general public, but we just think this immunotherapy stuff is the bee’s knees.

Alexa, manage my disease

Amazon Echo users can use voice commands to do all sorts of things. “Alexa, order granola bars.” “Alexa, turn on the lights.” “Alexa, clean the house.” (Just kidding…hey, one can dream, right?) Now Merck & Co. is sponsoring the Alexa Diabetes Challenge in which contestants submitted concepts for using Alexa’s technology for diabetes management. The ideas from the five finalists span from a smart foot scanner, to a coach that responds to patients’ moods, to a nutrition assistant that utilizes machine learning to provide meal recommendations. The winner gets $125k and a whole lot of bragging rights.

This makes InsightCity want jump on the contest bandwagon. Email us ([email protected]) a funny testimonial about why you love (or hate?) our newsletter—130 words or less, just like our writers have to do. The knee-slappingest, ROFLMAO-iest testimonial will win a $50 prepaid gift card. And we’ll send your write-up out in one of our newsletters—without your name, of course. You’ll be kinda famous, but in an anonymous sort of way. May the odds be ever in your favor. We’ll let this contest run for two weeks. Go!

The diabetes monster’s gonna get you (it’s a real thing)

This week Roche announced it was purchasing mySugr, an Austrian digital health company. The mySugr app is reportedly being used by more than 1M people to manage their diabetes. The app blends the tracking of blood sugar (e.g. the Diabetes Monster) with educational materials and even offers access to live coaching from trained Certified Diabetes Educators. Roche and mySugr have been partners since 2014 and have integrated Roche’s Bluetooth-enabled Accu-Chek (they obviously can’t spel) Connect meter to the other devices mySugr’s app uses to sync user data. Looking deeper, Roche was also an investor in mySugr. See, there is money to be made in the app world and this is another reminder that large pharma continues to invest in digital patient-centric approaches to therapy development.