Super Long Acting Insulin Developed in India
Scientists from India’s National Immunology Institute (NII) have developed a new long-acting insulin that can control blood sugar in animals for up to 120 days with a single insulin injection. In contrast, the most effective long-acting insulin on the market today is only effective for a maximum of 18 hours.
The new diabetes medication, dubbed supramolecular insulin assembly-II, or SIA-II, is a “prodrug – a drug administered in an inactive form that becomes active after being administered. Prodrugs are generally better absorbed, distributed, and metabolized than active drugs.
Both bovine and human insulin versions of SIA-II are faring well in animal testing, and the researchers have every expectation that they will perform equally well in clinical trials in humans. “Personally speaking, SIA-II can straight away go to human trials,” says NII Director Professor Avadhesha Surolia, “It is pretty safe, as we have not modified the insulin, nor is any addictive used.”
The insulin’s long lasting effects are due to a unique process called protein folding, in which bovine or human insulin is altered or “misfolded” to form a supramolecule which is protected from the body’s enzymatic action. This protection allows the molecules to be stored in the body and be slowly released over long periods of time.
The NII team has been working on the patented SIA-II technology for two years, and recently entered into what Surolia calls “one of the biggest licensing deals from any academic institution in India”, licensing the technology to Life Science Pharmaceuticals from Connecticut. A subsidiary of Life Science, Extended Delivery Pharmaceuticals, will be continuing trials of the new diabetic medication.
Experts speculate that the superlative long–term blood sugar control achieved with the use of the novel diabetes medication may indicate some level of recovery of the insulin producing cells in the pancreas that normally stop functioning in insulin dependent or type 1 diabetes.
There is some debate as to whether the super long-acting insulin will be of more benefit to type 1 or type 2 diabetics. India, dubbed “the diabetes capital of the world”, has over 50 million diabetics, most of them type 2. Some Indians are paying an average one-quarter of their family income for their current diabetes medication. “Our motivation was to reduce the burden of diabetes,” says Surolia, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s type 1 or 2.”