Zucara Therapeutics is developing the first once-daily therapeutic to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in patients with diabetes. This pre-clinical technology is directed at regulating a hormone in the pancreas called somatostatin which in Type 1 diabetes is not properly controlled. It has demonstrated potential to specifically block somatostatin type 2 receptors in the pancreas thereby preventing hypoglycemia and restoring natural glucose levels in the blood. Zucara’s method offers a clear advantage to patients as a preventative measure whereas current drug therapies can only rescue a patient already experiencing potentially dangerous low blood sugar.
There are over 422 million people in the world living with diabetes and the WHO projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030. Insulin-treated patients include all Type 1 diabetics (T1D; ~10% of total patients) and ~25% of Type 2 diabetic patients (T2D). The primary goal of insulin therapy in the treatment of diabetes is to control hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels). However, management of hyperglycemia with insulin is challenging because of the threat of acute and potentially life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), the most significant side effect of insulin therapy.
Hypoglycemia can cause complications and even death for people with diabetes, and is the limiting factor in successfully managing diabetes with insulin. Severe hypoglycemic episodes can be life threatening and are a particular source of fear and anxiety for patients. Hypoglycemia also impacts the incidence of complications of diabetes, including cardiovascular effects, which dramatically affect both patient health and the cost of care.
Despite this unmet clinical need, there is no current preventative therapy for hypoglycemia, leaving patients to completely rely on rescue therapy (glucose/glucagon).
Zucara Therapeutics was created in 2015 as a spin-out company by CDRD, Canada’s national Centre for Drug Research and Development, and MaRS Innovation, the commercialization agent for 15 academic Institutions in Ontario.
Drs. Mladen Vranic (Banting and Best Diabetes Centre, University of Toronto), David Coy (Tulane University) and Michael Riddell (York University), developed compelling evidence that pancreatic cells that play a key role in regulating hypoglycemia via glucagon production are impaired in Type 1 diabetes. Their discoveries, using novel peptides that block somatostatin receptors, form a technology to restore the normal glucagon response and prevent hypoglycemia onset caused by insulin treatment. The technology was further developed and advanced at York University and CDRD and then subsequently commercialized by CDRD and MaRS Innovation.