LONDON Alizyme plc has initiated a new discovery program in diabetes, based on a novel insulin-independent mechanism of regulating glucose uptake into muscle. The company, based in Cambridge, has taken assignment of the patent application for AZM-145, a compound discovered at the University of Birmingham School of Medicine, and will fund further research on the compound at the university.

Trevor Jarman, director of business development, told BioWorld International the project ¿builds on the discovery at the university that the neurotransmitter beta-endorphin stimulates glucose uptake into muscle, where it is then utilized.¿

¿It has been known for many years that following exercise, diabetics do not require so much insulin,¿ Jarman said. ¿It is also known that exercise releases endorphins, which is why some people become addicted to it. So this could explain why diabetics need less insulin.¿

The rights cover peptide fragments, which act on the glucose uptake receptor.

¿We see high potential for this project, based on the fact it is a new mechanism and there are existing biological observations which support it,¿ said Jarman. He expects the company to decide within the next year whether, and how, to take the project forward.

Alizyme, which specializes in the discovery and development of drugs for obesity and gastrointestinal tract disorders, also announced results for the six months ended June 30 which showed losses of #1.5 million (US$2.5 million), up from #1.3 million for the same period of 1997. Research and development costs were up to #1.3 million from #1 million. The company raised #5.5 million in April and had #6.2 million cash as of June 30.

Tim McCarthy, finance director for the company, told BioWorld International the figures were in line with expectations. Alizyme outsources all research and development activities, and McCarthy said the virtual model ¿works very well. If you employ your own R&D staff, it costs you money whether projects are moving forward or not.¿ There are 12 staff members directing four development programs and five discovery programs, and the company has spent #6.8 million since it was set up in 1995.

In the first quarter of next year, two products will enter clinical trials: renzapride for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, which is licensed from SmithKline Beecham plc, of London; and AZM-110 for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. Due to enter clinical development later in 1999 are ATL-101 for the treatment of mucositis and AZM 119, a lipase inhibitor for the treatment of obesity.