Eye disease drug could hold key to new diabetes treatment

27 April 2010

Deakin University medical researchers are part of a team trialling the effectiveness of an eye disease drug as a potential treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Modern drugs can stabilise adult onset diabetes but with significant side effects in some patients. A Geelong-based company, Verva Pharmaceuticals, has a new approach – a drug used for many years to treat eye disease. In animal testing, the drug restored sensitivity to insulin. But will it be effective and safe in people?

Verva is collaborating with Deakin University, and physicians at the Geelong Hospital to conduct a clinical trial. They are looking for 80 people with adult-onset diabetes (also called type-2 diabetes) who are not currently being treated with diabetes medication. Several Melbourne hospitals are likely to join the trial in the coming months.

The clinical trial builds on work at Deakin Medical School’s Metabolic Research Unit (MRU) which has developed a technique for rapidly screening compounds as potential diabetes treatments. Their tests found that a compound used in the 1970s as a therapy for eye disease could re-sensitise tissues to insulin.

“We screened a small group of drugs with a history of medical use that had already been tested for safety and side effects, including VVP808 which was used in the 1970s to treat eye disease,” said Dr Ken Walder, MRU deputy director.

“VVP808 was found to restore insulin sensitivity to previously insulin-resistant cells. This discovery opens up opportunities for the development of potential new treatments for type 2 diabetes that do not cause the side effects of drugs currently used.

“This is an exciting area of study and an example of the kind of work being undertaken as part of Deakin’s growing medical research program.”

The Phase 2a study will determine the safety and effectiveness of the compound, VVP808. The chronic effects of VVP808 in diabetes have not previously been measured. The company is also investigating how the structure of VVP808 can be modified and used to build new insulin sensitisers with improved efficacy and reduced side-effects.

“Insulin sensitisers are important tools in diabetes therapy,” said Verva CEO, Vince Wacher, “but significant side effects with existing products mean there is a market demand for a new sensitiser with improved safety and a different mode-of-action.”

“The trial is a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in people who have diabetes but have not been on any other medication,” said Dr Geoff Nicholson, head of the Department of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences at the Geelong Hospital.

News facts
  • Eye disease drug being trialled as potential treatment for type 2 diabetes
  • Trial builds on work of Deakin's Metabolic Research Unit
  • Work found compound in eye disease drug could restore insulin sensitivity to previously insulin-resistant cells

Media contact

Mandi O'Garretty
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 2776; 0418 361 890

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27th April 2010