A Coup for Nobex
Large pharma companies haven't set a high priority on developing new drug delivery formulations for their existing portfolios; nor have they been interested in macromolecule development. Thus, the strategic alliance forged in May between giant GSK and small drug-delivery firm Nobex is noteworthy. Not only is it one of the largest deals of its kind, but it also focuses on development of oral insulin for diabetic patients, which presents a challenge that few have attempted to overcome.
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Many start-ups are developing diabetes drugs based on known targets which could attract Big Pharma partners and get to the clinic quickly, while a few invest in novel compounds that are either riskier or address the field's smaller subsets. Among the former are Phenomix, Plexxikon, CareX and Prosidion; among the latter are DiaKine, and DiaMedica. In all cases, these companies are looking to partner with Big Pharma, which is aggressively pursuing small-molecule drugs for diabetes.
The great remaining religious divide in the drug industry is between those who reject and those who accept the fundamental therapeutic and economic importance of large molecule drugs. Diabetes is the central holy site in the schism since, for the most part, companies have either made small-molecule, oral therapies, or they've made injectable insulin. Bristol-Myers' deals for sustained-release insulin (with Flamel) and inhaled insulin (with QDose) mark both Bristol's increasing embrace of the large-molecule world as well as a novel strategy in the diabetes world.
Aventis is looking to the diabetes market to boost future growth. Lantus, the company's novel once-a-day injectable insulin, will spearhead the move. But can Aventis use an injectable to break into the fast growing Type II segment?