Diabetes is a disease of high blood sugar. Diabetic patients also can experience extremely low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, after fasting, exercising or too large a dose of insulin. If untreated, severe hypoglycemia can lead to coma or even death.
Rescue kits for hypoglycemia are available but are cumbersome and difficult to use. Current rescue kits require someone to mix a solution with dried glucagon in a vial and then put it into a syringe and properly administer it to the patient. Because more than 100 million adults in the United States live with diabetes or prediabetes, the need is great to find better solutions to treat hypoglycemia effectively.
A National Institutes of Health SBIR Phase I/II grant worth up to $1.4 million was recently awarded to Monon Bioventures, LLC to develop better rescue kits for hypoglycemia. The grant will fund a collaboration with Purdue University’s Elizabeth Topp, a professor of industrial and physical pharmacy. The grant will support the pre-clinical development of novel derivatives of glucagon, the drug used in rescue kits.
Topp is working with Mark Heiman, the chief science officer for Monon Bioventures and former chief science officer for Lilly Obesity, to develop an easier solution. They faced a challenge when developing their technology: Glucagon is poorly soluble and unstable in solution. They solved this challenge by using derivatives of glucagon, which they have shown to be soluble and stable in solution. The glucagon analogs created at Purdue are quickly reconverted after injection to natural glucagon by enzymes in the body. This process creates an easier and quicker alternative to delivering glucagon to a person in need.
“Utilizing Topp’s innovative approach, we will be able to significantly improve patient access to this important medicine,” Heiman said. “The new glucagon solution will enable the development of much easier delivery methods such as an EpiPen-like device. Intranasal delivery may even be possible, and the derivatives may allow for the realization of an effective, dual-hormone artificial pancreas.”
Topp has been working with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization and Monon Bioventures LLC, a company created to help investigators translate their research into the clinic, to develop and patent the glucagon derivatives for the improved glucagon solutions. The CEO of Monon Bioventures LLC, Joseph Trebley, received his PhD from Purdue’s College of Pharmacy.
“We couldn’t be more excited about working with Topp and Purdue on this important project,” Trebley said. “The commercial and drug development expertise of Monon Bioventures and the innovative thinking coming out of Purdue University is really an ideal match. We think that this will be the first of many such collaborations.”
Their work aligns with Purdue’s Giant Leaps celebration, acknowledging the university’s global advancements in health as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. This is one of the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.