New funding expands drug research for diabetes hypoglycemia prevention

New funding will expand the development of a diabetes drug designed to prevent insulin-induced low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia) to include use in Type 2 diabetes (T2D), a project York University researcher Michael Riddell is working closely on with diabetes life sciences company Zucara Therapeutics Inc.

The new funding will nearly $415,000 in funding to the project from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program. In addition, Zucara and York University have been awarded a Mitacs Accelerate Postdoctoral Fellowship grant, which will fund the development of a preclinical T2D diabetes model.

Michael Riddell
Michael Riddell

Riddell is a founding scientist of Zucara Therapeutics Inc. and is the Chair of their Scientific Advisory Board. He is also a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences and Muscle Health Research Centre, in the Faculty of Health.

In April 2018, the project received US$3.9-million in funding to advance development to clinical trials; on Sept. 29, Zucara dosed the first subject in its ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial of ZT-01, which is in development for the prevention of insulin-induced hypoglycemia in patients with Type 1 diabetes (T1D). The new funding will allow for the expansion of the development program to include treatment in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

Riddell oversees the Zucara experiments conducted at York University that test the efficacy of ZT-01, and is investigating how this novel drug candidate helps to prevent hypoglycemia in patients who are continuously taking insulin.

“These grants build on the funding we previously received from GlycoNet to extend the therapeutic potential of ZT-01 to T2D patients,” said Riddell. “We look forward to continuing our efforts to address an unmet need of hypoglycemia prevention in people living with either T1D or T2D.”

Hypoglycemia is a major barrier to safe and effective treatment with insulin in T1D and T2D, and is a common side effect of insulin therapy, as well as aerobic forms of exercise such as walking, cycling and jogging. Dangerously low blood glucose can lead to unconsciousness or even death, and is a frequent challenge for people with insulin-dependent diabetes. Current methods of treating episodes of hypoglycemia include ingesting fast-acting carbohydrates or, in emergency situations, using injections of exogenous glucagon.

“We are grateful for NRC-IRAP’s renewed support and are delighted to receive this Mitacs Award, both of which will enable the development of ZT-01 for T2D,” said Dr. Richard Liggins, Zucara’s chief scientific officer. “The expansion of our ZT-01 development program is based on promising results in a preclinical model of T2D and represents the potential to benefit a substantially larger population. We look forward to working with York University to advance this preclinical T2D model to enable future clinical development.”