PHARMACY

Merck to acquire SmartCells

BY Allison Cerra

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J., and BEVERLY, Mass. (Dec. 2) Merck announced on Thursday it has inked a deal to acquire an insulin maker.

The drug maker said it has entered a definitive agreement to acquire SmartCells, a company developing a glucose responsive insulin formulation for the treatment of diabetes. Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will acquire all outstanding stock of SmartCells. In return, SmartCells shareholders will receive an upfront cash payment and be eligible to receive clinical development and regulatory milestones for products resulting from the transaction for potential aggregate payments in excess of $500 million, Merck said.

"Maintaining control of blood glucose levels represents a daily challenge for people living with diabetes," said Nancy Thornberry, SVP and head of diabetes and obesity franchise at Merck Research Labs. "Through the acquisition of SmartCells we have obtained innovative technology that may enable us to develop glucose-responsive insulins. If this investigational technology is ultimately approved for use with patients, it could provide an important new therapy for the treatment of diabetes. This holds the potential to significantly impact the treatment of this disease."

The acquisition will expand Merck’s diabetes portfolio, which currently includes Januvia and Janumet.

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PHARMACY

Oramed announces publication in diabetes journal

BY Rozanne Gelbinovich

JERUSALEM — Oramed Pharmaceuticals, a developer of oral drug delivery solutions, has published an article in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology’s November issue describing evaluation of the company’s glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) analog formulation (ORMD-0901) in regulating glucose excursions in animal models.

GLP-1 and its analogs harbor significant therapeutic potential for management of Type 2 diabetes mellitus through their broad physiological impact on glucose regulation-related mechanisms. To date, these drugs are only available in injectable forms, leading to systemic effects upon administration as well as unsatisfactory patient compliance and adherence.

Oramed has applied its oral drug delivery platform to the GLP-1 analog family of medications. High sugar-content meals were delivered to animals in the presence or absence of ORMD-0901, followed by close monitoring of blood glucose levels. Specific formulations were found to effectively blunt expected glucose surges in both ORMD-0901-treated pigs and canines. The two animal models used for testing the performance of ORMD-0901 indicated retained drug activity when delivered using Oramed’s oral drug delivery platform.

Oramed already has started clinical testing of its ORMD-0901 product to test the formulation’s safety and efficacy in healthy individuals. Further testing and development are expected to significantly contribute to current diabetes control options and success rates.

To view the article abstract, click here.

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Decision Resources: Type 2 diabetes market in China to nearly double by 2014

BY Allison Cerra

BURLINGTON, Mass. — A growing drug-treated population will cause the Type 2 diabetes drug market in China to increase to $2.5 billion by 2014, according to a new report by Decision Resources.

The Type 2 diabetes market in China totaled $1.4 billion in 2009, Decision Resources said.

"China now has the largest Type 2 diabetes patient population in the world, and is the third-largest market for Type 2 diabetes agents behind the United States and Japan," said Decision Resources analyst Jing Wu. "The Type 2 diabetes market in China will continue to grow between 2009 and 2014 at an annual rate of 13%, which is faster than expected growth in the United States or Japan."

Decision Resources also noted that while metformin continues to be the most widely prescribed agent in China because of its low cost, newly launched DPP-IV inhibitors, such as Merck’s Januvia, Novartis’s Galvus and Bristol-Myers Squibb/AstraZeneca’s Onglyza, as well as GLP-1 analogues, including Novo Nordisk’s Victoza and Eli Lilly/Amylin/Alkerme’s Bydureon, will be used more frequently.

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