Novo acquires UK biotech Ziylo to develop "smart" insulin

Danish pharma company Novo Nordisk

Novo Nordisk has acquired UK start-up Ziylo in a deal worth up to $800m in a bid to develop the world’s first “smart” insulin, capable of modulating its effectiveness depending on how much glucose is present in a patient’s bloodstream.

The Danish pharma bought Ziylo to access its synthetic glucose binding molecule technology, designed by professor Anthony Davis at the University of Bristol.

These stable, synthetic molecules are highly selective to glucose in complex environments such as blood.

The idea behind glucose responsive insulin is to create a therapy that modulates its potency, concentration, or dose relative to a patient’s dynamic glucose concentration.

This would help eliminate the risk of hypoglycaemia, the main danger associated with insulin therapy and one of the main barriers for achieving optimal glucose control.

Novo hopes that combining Ziylo's tech with state-of-the-art insulin would create the world’s first glucose responsive insulin, transforming treatment of diabetes.

Novo Nordisk acquired all shares in Ziylo for an upfront payment and earn-outs with contingent milestone payments.

Total payments under the agreement could exceed $800 million upon the achievement of certain development, regulatory and sales milestones by Novo Nordisk.

Before closing the deal, research activities have been spun out of Ziylo to a new company, Carbometrics.

Carbometrics has entered into a research collaboration with Novo Nordisk to assist with ongoing optimisation of glucose binding molecules for use in glucose responsive insulin.

Carbometrics also has licensed rights to develop non-therapeutic applications of glucose binding molecules, with a focus on developing continuous glucose monitoring applications.

[caption id="attachment_45888" align="alignleft" width="124"]Marcus Schindler Marcus Schindler[/caption]

Marcus Schindler, senior vice president of global drug discovery at Novo Nordisk, said: “We believe the glucose binding molecules discovered by the Ziylo team together with Novo Nordisk world-class insulin capabilities have the potential to lead to the development of glucose responsive insulins which we hope can remove the risk of hypoglycaemia and ensure optimal glucose control for people with diabetes.”