Texas pharmaceutical company to develop CU diabetes management drug

By Staff

Xeris Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of Austin, Texas, and the University of Colorado recently completed an exclusive license agreement for a jointly developed method of treating the low blood sugar that is a common side effect of the insulin therapy used to treat many types of diabetes.

Insulin therapy is used in the treatment of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to lower blood glucose levels since diabetes sufferers do not produce enough of this hormone (or do not react to the insulin produced naturally in their bodies). Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) is a dangerous complication of insulin therapy, and can cause vomiting, seizures or even death. Hypoglycemia can be treated by taking glucose orally, but when a hypoglycemic individual is confused or unconscious, oral glucose might not be an option. In these cases, glucagon (a hormone secreted by the pancreas, like insulin) may be given by injection to quickly raise blood glucose levels; however, glucagon is not stable when dissolved in water, so current injection methods require many extra steps for reconstitution with water before administration.

The patent-pending drug reformulation technique developed by CU and Xeris (by a team of researchers led by John Carpenter, a professor at the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and John Kinzell, CEO of Xeris) provides paste and suspension formulations of glucagon that are shelf-stable and do not require refrigeration, making them faster and more convenient to administer. Like other commercially-available glucagon products, these stabilized formulations can be given using a disposable injection kit that can be carried by diabetics in case of emergency. Additionally, since these formulations significantly reduce the injection volume as compared to conventional glucagon injections, they allow for simple and rapid administration.

“We were excited to team with John and his lab on advancing this novel formulation technology platform for delivery of biologics,” said Dr. Kinzell, Xeris’ CEO. “Dr. Carpenter’s program is a nationally-recognized academic center of excellence in this space and the primary reason we sought John out as technical partner for our first NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. Besides providing small companies like Xeris with non-dilutive funding for early-stage drug development, it also provides early peer-reviewed validation of a technology. We were very pleased with the outcome of the project, as was NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).”

“The University of Colorado is very pleased to continue its partnership with Xeris Pharmaceuticals,” added Paul Tabor of the CU Technology Transfer Office. “Our combined advances in formulation science have the potential to dramatically improve drug delivery, and we believe Xeris is ideally suited to advance the technology and provide much needed solutions for diabetics and other at-risk patients.”

Xeris is in the process of optimizing its glucagon formulation technology and will select the best candidate formulation in the second quarter of 2012 to move into the clinical phase of its program.