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MedImmune, Joslin Partner on Diabetes Research

Diabetes Test (NIH)

(National Institutes of Health)

10 March 2015. Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston and MedImmune, the biotechnology subsidiary of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, are collaborating on research to identify new drugs to treat diabetes. While the partnership calls for MedImmune to fund research conducted at Joslin, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas does not create enough insulin to process the sugar glucose to flow into the blood stream and cells for energy in the body. Type 2 diabetes is a disorder where the pancreas produces some, but not enough insulin, or the body cannot process insulin, and accounts for some 90 percent of all diabetes cases. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body is tricked into producing little or no insulin. According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes affects 387 million people worldwide, of which 39 million are in North America.

Joslin is a treatment and research center specializing in diabetes and related metabolic disorders, affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Under the agreement, MedImmune, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, will fund research in three areas with the goal of identifying new drugs for:

– Regeneration and protection of insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas

– Increasing caloric use of fat deposits in the body, to replace harmful white fat with more beneficial brown fat

– Accomplishing the beneficial effects of bariatric, or weight-loss, surgery for people with severe obesity that cannot lose weight through diet and exercise

Joslin’s labs are currently conducting studies in fields related to the research objectives of the partnership. One lab is researching pancreatic endocrine cell development and regeneration of pancreatic cells from precursors. Another lab is studying the role of developmental signals in brown versus white adipose or fat cells, as well as identifying precursor or stem cells that transform into adipose depots.

MedImmune staff are expected to add their expertise in drug development to the collaboration. The agreement gives MedImmune an option to license to develop and commercial rights of discoveries from the partnership. The deal also allows the parties to expand the partnership to further projects.

MedImmune develops and commercializes biologic therapies of a number of disease types, including metabolic disorders. But the company has no drugs on the market or in clinical trials for diabetes or related conditions.

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