UAB, Southern Research discover breakthrough diabetes drug candidate
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Birmingham-based Southern Research have discovered a new drug candidate that represents a major advance in the treatment for diabetes.
A release from UAB on Thursday advised that the drug has been tested on isolated human and mouse pancreatic islets, the place where the hormones insulin and glucagon are made. It also has been tested on mouse and rat cell cultures and animal models of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
The drug candidate, called SRI-37330, is a non-toxic small molecule administered orally that effectively rescued mice from models of both types of diabetes.
SRI-37330 was reportedly discovered through two decades of research by Anath Shalev, M.D., director of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center. Southern Research used her findings to search through 300,000 compounds and identify promising leads. The non-profit then optimized the drug from those leads, using medicinal chemistry.
The strong anti-diabetic properties and safety profiles of this newly designed chemical compound were published in the journal Cell Metabolism this week. Per UAB, this study is the culmination of 10 years work by the Shalev-led lab and a massive search, followed by detailed drug improvements, by Southern Research.
The UAB and Southern Research researchers found that the experimental drug significantly improved four problems caused by diabetes:
• Levels of blood sugar that are too high;
• Too high levels of the hormone glucagon, which exacerbates the too-high level of blood sugar;
• Excessive production of glucose by the liver; and
• Fatty liver, known as hepatic steatosis.
“Compared to currently available diabetes therapies, this compound may provide a distinct, effective and highly beneficial approach to treat diabetes,” stated Shalev, the leader of the research. “We are committed to see this drug moved safely and as quickly as possible into humans and are currently exploring the best way to do so.”
Diabetes affects 425 million people worldwide and more than 30 million in the United States. It is a growing epidemic, with 1.5 million Americans newly diagnosed each year. Alabama had the third highest prevalence of diabetes in the country as of 2012, per the Department of Public Health.
The preclinical studies led by Shalev suggest that SRI-37330 could be beneficial for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, including both lean and obese individuals.
“The safety and efficacy of SRI-37330 in humans still remains to be determined,” she added, “but we have seen that it is highly effective in human islets, is orally bioavailable and is well tolerated in mice.”
The 80 million people in the United States who have prediabetes might also benefit from the potential drug, according to UAB’s release. Additionally, the effectiveness of SRI-37330 in reducing fatty liver in mice suggested it might have potential to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which affects about 100 million people nationwide and 1 billion worldwide.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn