Toronto and Vancouver, Canada: Zucara Therapeutics Inc., a diabetes life sciences company advancing the first once-daily therapeutic to prevent low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia), has secured US$3.9 million in non-dilutive funding from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
As part of the agreement, Helmsley will provide the funding to support preclinical advancement of Zucara’s lead drug candidate. The partnership is structured as a program-related investment (PRI) in the form of a loan to Zucara.
Zucara recently defined its lead drug candidate “ZT-01” which is focused on the prevention of hypoglycemia in people with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and other types of insulin-dependent diabetes. Now, the company is moving forward with GLP toxicology, GMP manufacturing and other Investigational New Drug/Clinical Trial Application enabling activities to bring its lead drug to Phase I clinical trials in 2019. Preclinical development work will be led by Dr. Richard Liggins, Zucara’s Chief Scientific Officer, who has helped to bring several similar-stage therapeutics to clinical trials. Zucara continues to work closely with The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) to build and advance its products.
Dangerously low blood glucose, which can lead to unconsciousness or even death, is a frequent challenge for people with T1D and other types of insulin-dependent diabetes. The constant risk of hypoglycemia means that these individuals must monitor and treat low blood glucose levels with fast-acting carbohydrates or, in the case of emergency, have a companion inject them with exogenous glucagon. A therapy that restores the body’s ability to prevent hypoglycemia would prevent dangerous hypoglycemic episodes and would improve management of the disease while reducing long-term complications.
“This significant funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust fills an important gap in financing that we need to move our drug forward to be ready for clinical trials,” said Michael Midmer, Chief Executive Officer for Zucara Therapeutics. “It is a unique opportunity for us to work with the Helmsley Charitable Trust, an organization that is deeply involved in bringing Type 1 diabetes (T1D) technologies and therapies to people with the disease and has strong connections in the diabetes community. We look forward to working together to advance our very exciting therapeutic to prevent hypoglycemia in T1D.”
Zucara will join other leading institutions in a Helmsley-supported scientific working group focused on understanding and restoring the pancreas’s natural ability to prevent hypoglycemia in individuals with T1D. In this working group investigators study relevant cell types, including alpha and delta cells, and share knowledge in an effort to make therapeutic discoveries within an area of research that is historically underappreciated and underfunded.
“We are excited to partner with Zucara and help them bring a first-in-class drug to the T1D community,” said Ben Williams, PhD, Program Officer in Helmsley’s Type 1 Diabetes Program. “Hypoglycemia is a major and often overlooked challenge for those living with T1D, and Zucara’s drug takes a direct shot at this unmet need.”
This new support builds upon more than US$1M in recently announced funding from JDRF International, the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) and MaRS Innovation. This funding continues to support preclinical activities with Dr. Michael Riddell at York University, a Zucara founding scientist, who has accelerated the technology originally discovered by Drs. Mladen Vranic (Banting and Best Diabetes Centre, University of Toronto) and David Coy (Tulane University).
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About Zucara Therapeutics Inc.
Zucara Therapeutics, a spin-off company by The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) and MaRS Innovation (MI), is developing the first drug therapy to prevent hypoglycemia in people with diabetes. The Company’s first-in-class therapeutic is aimed at inhibiting a hormone in the pancreas called somatostatin, which does not function properly in Type 1 diabetes. Preventing hypoglycemia will dramatically change diabetes disease management, improving both patient health and quality of life. www.zucara.ca.
About The Helmsley Charitable Trust
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $2 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. For more information, visit www.helmsleytrust.org.
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