UCSB Institute to Play Key Role in New Diabetes Project
With an estimated 60 percent of diabetic patients insulin-resistant and inadequately responding to currently available drug therapies, UCSB’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies (ICB) has joined a research consortium with Pfizer and three other major research universities to seek new drugs to treat the disease.
Pfizer is funding the three-year, $14 million Insulin Resistance Pathway (IRP) Project to look at insulin signaling in fat cells. The aim is to increase understanding of the relationship between diabetes and obesity, inextricably linked conditions that affect 7 percent of the U.S. population.
The other research partners are Caltech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts, and Entelos, a physiological modeling company in Northern California.
Diabetes has been the subject of intense study in the academic community and pharmaceutical industry for nearly 50 years. The diabetes and obesity medicines that have reached the market, however, do not meet the needs of many patients.
The first phase of the project will examine insulin signaling in adipose cells. Researchers at Pfizer, MIT and the University of Massachusetts will perform data collection and analyses, which will then be fed to the computational groups at MIT, Caltech, and UC Santa Barbara.
Led by Frank Doyle, professor of chemical engineering and associate director of ICB, the UCSB team will first be responsible for analyzing the data supplied by the other computational groups, then developing mathematical models of the insulin signaling pathways. They will use those models to identify targets for therapeutic action.
“The IRP Project is a new paradigm in two respects,” notes Doyle. “First, its methodology is a true departure from the way fundamental research in human disease has been done and then applied to the development of new therapies. Secondly, this consortium also represents a sea change in how industry and academia collaborate in research and product development in the pharmaceutical area.”
Entelos’ role will be to assess the potential efficacy of treating those targets, utilizing the company’s whole-body model of Type 2 diabetes.
Preston Hensley, senior director in Pfizer’s Worldwide Exploratory Science and Technology organization, will oversee the IRP Project for Pfizer. “This project will be an interactive effort across Pfizer,” said Hensley. “Scientists from our laboratories in Groton, Conn., where our diabetes and obesity research is centered, and from our Research Technology Center in Cambridge, Mass., will work directly with the university and Entelos research teams. Pfizer is very fortunate to be working with such an outstanding group of research organizations.”
The collaboration agreement, in a major departure from traditional industry-academia practice, allows the academic partners to publish and/or patent any discoveries made in the course of their research.