On June 18, the Medicon Valley Alliance R&D Network is hosting a webinar to provide insight in ongoing R&D efforts in the field of type 1 diabetes in the Öresund region, along with bridges to other autoimmune diseases.
A binational life science cluster
There have always been links between the pharmaceutical industries in southern Sweden and eastern Denmark based on strong academic traditions, an innovative hospital sector and a successful private life science sector on both sides of the strait. When the Öresund bridge opened 20 years ago, the infrastructure required to fully integrate the two communities came into place. That was the starting point of the Medicon Valley region which would strengthen the international competitiveness on both sides.
Medicon Valley Alliance (MVA) is a non-profit member-driven organisation with the ambition to contribute to the realisation of the true potential of the Danish-Swedish life science cluster under the notion that Medicon Valley as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The idea is to do this by creating a forum for the exchange of ideas, knowledge and services.
The R&D Network is hosting a diabetes webinar
MVA’s R&D Network was formed to bring together C-level R&D executives in the industry (CSOs, CMOs, VPs), university professors – who often are principal investigators (PIs) in clinical trials – and top-level managers in the hospital sector. The network aims to share best practice and experiences, facilitate discussions on current challenges for industry-academia collaboration and the commercialization of innovations in the Medicon Valley region.
The ambition with the free diabetes webinar Connecting the R&D of auto-immune disease therapies – starting from the type 1 diabetes perspective is to highlight the internationally-recognized competencies within the fields of screening, genetics and immunology in type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases in the region and give insight in ongoing efforts to develop improved diabetic care.
World-leading expert in diabetes
MVA members are included in the webinar program along with Novo Nordisk Foundation and Lund University. The latter will be represented by Åke Lernmark, Senior Professor at the Diabetes and Celiac Unit of the university and an experienced PI for clinical trials in diabetes. He has also led research groups at Hagedorn Research Laboratory, University of Washington and Karolinska Institutet.
Lernmark’s research has primarily aimed at developing better tools for predicting and preventing autoimmune type 1 diabetes. He has received grants from the American National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the Helmsley Trust, as well as the Swedish Research Council and the Diabetes Foundation. Lernmark is ranked among the 10 foremost experts in the world on type 1 diabetes.
Follicum to showcase R&D capacity
In addition to his own research, Professor Lernmark is also tied to Swedish peptide company Follicum, through its scientific advisory board on diabetes where he is accompanied by a number of renowned international researchers within the field. Follicum will also be part of the MVA R&D Network’s diabetes webinar program and will, alongside Zealand Pharma, showcase the state of diabetes R&D in Medicon Valley. Follicum runs a preclinical diabetes project aimed at prolonging blood glucose control compared to current treatments, thereby reducing the risk of serious diabetic complications.
Ex vivo data have shown that Follicum’s peptides have an ability to induce insulin secretion in the islets of Langerhans from human donors, resulting in a demonstrated capacity to release insulin that is in line with existing GLP-1 analogues. Today, such GLP-1s are frequently used in diabetic care. With additional studies currently underway, Follicum aims to provide further support for the therapeutic value of the FOL peptides when targeting various diabetic complications and at the same time evaluate if the peptide may be used to treat type 1 diabetes, which early data suggests.
Follicum CEO comments
BioStock reached out to Follicum’s CEO Jan Alenfall to get his take on the MVA efforts in general, the type 1 diabetes webinar in particular, and the latest update on the company´s diabetes project.
Given that you will partake in the webinar, one can guess that you are a member of MVA. If so, why did Follicum become a member, and what role do you think the organization plays in the region?
– Yes, we are members of MVA. It is a good network for us and offers many good activities such as seminars as well as opportunities to connect with important people. For smaller companies, MVA is an important local organization with a large global network.
Why do you think it important to participate in this particular MVA R&D Network webinar on the regional advances in the treatment of type 1 diabetes?
– We have been active in diabetes research for many years, especially in the area of type 2 diabetes. Through the research we have done in collaboration with Professor Åke Lernmark, however, we have also obtained interesting data that may be important for type 1 diabetics. Professor Lernmark has also given us valuable advice in our work.
– Naturally, we want to contribute to the general knowledge through sharing our results and discussing how they can be used in the best possible way. For example, they might come in handy when developing new treatments for patients with type 1 diabetes. The seminar is also a good opportunity to make important contacts for the further development of our diabetes project.
»Follicum’s goal is to offer effective treatment to diabetes patients, especially those who suffer from complications, regardless if they are caused by type 1 or type 2 diabetes.« – Jan Alenfall, CEO Follicum
What are you planning to talk about in your webinar session?
– Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of time, but I will focus on our interesting experimental results and present these in light of the need for new therapies for type 1 diabetics. If our data can result in a future treatment, it is obviously important.
You mention that you have primarily been active in type 2 diabetes, while the MVA seminar involved type 1 diabetes. What type of diabetes is your project focused on?
– Follicum’s goal is to offer effective treatment to diabetes patients, especially those who suffer from complications, regardless if they are caused by type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The largest market is in type 2 diabetes, but many type 1 patients are also affected by serious complications. Our early research also shows positive effects in type 1 diabetes models, which we will present.
Could you give us a short status update on how the project is advancing and whether/how it is affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic?
– The pandemic has not affected our diabetes project to any significant extent. The project is in an early preclinical phase and we have not had to interrupt any part of the studies that are underway. Parts of the diabetes project are run within the Eurostars project that we have established with several German parties, which is also running according to the original plan.
What milestones do you expect for the project in the foreseeable future?
– We are working intensively to document the effects of our peptides in several different ways, both in overall experimental disease models, but also in mapping the mechanism of action and how the peptides work in human material. A good understanding of the mechanism of action facilitates an optimization of the work going forward, both in terms of treatment effect and safety.
– It is also important to show, at an early stage, that our peptides have good effects not only in animal models but also in human cells. We hope to be able to present interesting data in relevant models that further support the unique effects of our peptides on diabetes-related complications.
More information about the webinar can be found here.
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