Insmed Pharmaceuticals Inc., a small company formed in 1988to develop products to diagnose and treat insulin resistance,has just received a significant cash infusion from privateinvestors and a new small business innovation research (SBIR)grant to help it translate research findings into products.

The company also has a new president and chief technicalofficer, Geoffrey Allan, who was previously vice president ofdrug development at Whitby Research Inc. of Richmond, Va.

Insmed of Charlottesville, Va., announced Wednesday that itraised $1 million from the sale of series A preferred stock toseveral individual investors. The company now has 1.74 millionshares outstanding. In addition, it has received a $75,000 SBIRgrant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive andKidney Diseases to support work on the synthesis of an insulinmediator as a potential therapeutic.

Insmed was founded to capitalize on research on the role andchemical structure of insulin mediators carried out by JosephLarner, an alumni professor of pharmacology at the Universityof Virginia Medical School. Larner, who has been investigatinginsulin's mechanism of action for decades, has discovered anaturally occurring molecule, D-chiro-inositol (DCI), thatapparently acts like insulin.

In fact, DCI is "plentiful in healthy individuals, but low orabsent in people with type II diabetes or in those who exhibitinsulin resistance," said John Hiram Ewald, Insmed's vicepresident of corporate development.

Insulin resistance (the inability of the body to properlymetabolize insulin) is a condition that precedes most type II(adult onset) diabetes. Moreover, insulin resistance is thoughtto be a factor in hypertension, atherosclerosis, dyslipidemiaand obesity. This genetic defect is present in 20 percent of thepopulation.

The defect could well be the inability to convert myo-inositol (aB-complex vitamin) into DCI, Ewald said. "We believe that DCIbecomes part of an insulin mediator, which acts as a secondmessenger for insulin activity," he added. Larner is currentlysearching for the enzyme or enzymes that are defunct inpeople who exhibit insulin resistance, as well as the underlyinggenetic defect, Ewald told BioWorld.

Meanwhile, researchers at Insmed have already producedantibodies against DCI, which they intend to turn into adiagnostic test that would measure the compound'sconcentration in urine and blood as a predictor of diabetes.

Insmed's first approach to a therapeutic is to develop DCI as adietary supplement to be taken with each meal. DCI isnaturally present in chick peas, but not at high concentrations,according to Ewald. However, researchers have found that ifthey feed DCI per se to primates, it can cause lower levels ofblood glucose and insulin. DCI is orally active; Insmed scientistsare currently investigating dosage levels as well as means ofdelivery. "We do know a single dose has an effect," Ewald said.

Since its founding, Insmed has attracted close to $3 million infinancing, including corporate support from Ciba-Geigy, MilesLaboratories and the Mead Johnson division of Bristol-MyersSquibb, and $250,000 from Virginia's Center for InnovativeTechnology, said Ewald.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.