JDRF Works to Speed Delivery of Faster-Acting Insulin

In another key step forward on the road to an artificial pancreas, JDRF has launched a research program to speed the development of faster-acting insulin.

Through the initiative, JDRF is funding investigators at leading academic institutions to test novel insulin formulations and delivery systems. The goal is to develop faster-acting insulin for use in an artificial pancreas system – which will automate blood sugar control by connecting a continuous glucose monitor to an insulin pump, via a sophisticated computer program. Faster-acting insulin would enable the artificial pancreas to more closely mimic a human pancreas in sensing blood sugar and secreting insulin in response.

“A key to making an artificial pancreas system significantly better than current methods to manage diabetes is to mirror as much as possible how the human pancreas works,” said Dr. Sanjoy Dutta, Director of JDRF’s Insulin Initiative.

Studies have shown that in people without diabetes, insulin is released and acts almost instantaneously. But even the fast-acting insulins currently available take more than 30 minutes to reach the bloodstream, and more than 90 minutes to reach peak effectiveness.

One way to speed up insulin action is to reformulate the molecule. JDRF will fund Dr. Bruce Buckingham of Stanford University to test such an insulin that is currently in development at Connecticut-based Biodel, Inc. JDRF will also fund Dr. W. Kenneth Ward of Oregon Health Sciences University to perform artificial pancreas experiments with the insulin.

Another way to speed insulin action may be to improve the route of delivery. Currently, insulin is delivered under the surface of the skin; this contributes to the slow action compared to insulin made in the pancreas. JDRF will provide grant funding to Dr. Howard Zisser at the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute to conduct studies there with a rapid-acting insulin being developed by California’s MannKind Corporation.

JDRF recently announced a collaboration with BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) to develop a microneedle-based delivery system. In addition, JDRF will fund the testing of two new devices also aimed at providing the mechanical means to achieve faster insulin action.

The JDRF Insulin Initiative is another component in the Artificial Pancreas Project, which is focused on developing an artificial pancreas to give people with type 1 diabetes tighter blood glucose control – and reduce their risk for complications. With JDRF funding, numerous clinical trials have demonstrated that early-generation artificial pancreas systems enable people to better control diabetes and lower the risk of dangerous low blood sugar emergencies in people with type 1 diabetes.

Although the focus of the JDRF Insulin Initiative is accelerating the development and commercial availability of artificial pancreas systems, Dr. Dutta also noted that new faster-acting insulin would also have significant benefits for people with all types of diabetes who might choose not to use an artificial pancreas to manage their disease.

For more information about progress toward developing an artificial pancreas, please visit www.artificialpancreasproject.com.