Eli Lilly to Acquire ‘Smart Insulin’ Company Glycostasis, Inc

(Originally published by SynBioBeta, February 17, 2016)

Karl Handelsman from Codon Capital moderating a SynBioBeta San Francisco 2015 session.

Eli Lilly and Company are acquiring Glycostasis, Inc., a startup aiming to create “smart insulin.” Seattle-based Glycostasis, founded by CEO Dr. John Mulligan, was incubated by Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute (PNDRI), and later attracted Series A financing led by Karl Handelsman. Lilly, a leader in insulin in both the research and market sides, is looking to develop Glycostasis’ technology further.

“Smart insulin” consists of a molecule that attaches to insulin and only releases it when blood glucose levels rise past a certain level. This would allow insulin in diabetic patients to more closely mimic how the molecule is controlled in healthy individuals. The response of this drug is rapid and proportionate to glucose levels, potentially doing away with glucose-monitoring and insulin injections. By lowering insulin levels as blood glucose levels decrease, it could also protect patients from hypoglycemia, glucose-deficiency, and its associated symptoms.

PNDRI provided research, space and resources for Glycostasis’ early-stage drug development, which is high-risk, high-return research. Finding funding for such projects can be difficult, so PNDRI’s investment was critical to the company’s success, according to Mulligan.

Handelsman of Codon Capital notes that this was his third exit from a series A in under 18 months and expressed excitement at the acquisition, “It is a pleasure to back a great entrepreneur to develop an innovative program that will now be further studied with the iconic expertise of Lilly. The future of early investment in synthetic biology looks very promising.”

President and CEO of PNDRI, Dr. John Wecker, was also hopeful about the pairing, seeing the partnership as a natural fit. “Dr. Mulligan’s innovative technology holds great promise to improve the health of people living with diabetes,” he said. “PNDRI is committed to accelerating the development of research findings with the opportunity to deliver health benefits, and we are delighted that his research has found a home with Lilly.”

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