Fighting the global diabetes epidemic with Israeli innovation

Diabetes is often associated with injections, but Jerusalem-based Oramed Pharmaceuticals has developed an innovative oral insulin capsule transforming injectable treatments into oral therapies.

By
November 13, 2018 12:34
Nadav Kidron, CEO of Oramed Pharmaceuticals, shows an insulin pill as he poses for a photo

Nadav Kidron, CEO of Oramed Pharmaceuticals, shows an insulin pill as he poses for a photo at the company's offices in Jerusalem September 29, 2013. The insulin pill, long desired by diabetes doctors and patients but abandoned as not physically viable, could be available by the end of this decade as. (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)

 
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Diabetes and its devastating complications are a growing, global epidemic. A major public health problem, diabetes has the potential to take over the lives of sufferers and exact an increasingly heavy price for the world's healthcare systems.

Some 425 million adults worldwide are living with diabetes today, with the figure set to rise to 522 million by 2030 and 629 million by 2045, according to International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates. Today, an incredible 12% of all adult healthcare expenditure is diabetes-related.

World Diabetes Day, created by IDF and the World Health Organization in 1991, is marked every year on November 14, the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting – the celebrated Canadian scientist who co-discovered insulin in 1922 – and seeks to boost public and political awareness of diabetes issues.

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While there is currently no cure for either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, a range of breakthrough Israeli medical technologies is changing the rules of the game for diabetics.

Although diabetes is often associated with insulin injections, Jerusalem-based Oramed Pharmaceuticals has developed an innovative oral insulin capsule that transforms injectable treatments into oral therapies. The capsules, for both types of diabetes, are currently in advanced Food and Drug Administration clinical trials.

“We have something that can help hundreds of millions of people around the world,” Oramed CEO and cofounder Nadav Kidron told The Jerusalem Post.

Kidron grew up in a home where diabetes was always part of the conversation. His mother, Miriam, worked for almost 20 years in the Diabetes Unit at Hadassah-Hebrew University
Medical Center.

Together with Nobel Prize winner Prof. Avram Hershko, they developed a previously-unimaginable solution that enables proteins, such as insulin, to be delivered orally and intact into the liver – the organ that regulates the secretion of insulin into the bloodstream.

“Rather than treating excessive glucose in the blood, we shut off production from the source. This is a much more physiological way of treating diabetes. The vision is that the new paradigm of treating diabetics is by diet, exercise, oral insulin and, eventually, injectable insulin,” Kidron said.


ORAL ADMINISTRATION of current injection-only therapies for conditions including diabetes also offers clear benefits for patient lifestyles.

“There should be a world that will push back the point where patients are insulin-dependent, which is also far more expensive. The dream is to see smiling kids and adults because they can have a better lifestyle which can cost less, and both they and society will be much happier.”

In November 2015, Oramed signed licensing and investment agreements worth up to $50m. with Chinese investment and incubation company HTIT for exclusive rights to market the company’s insulin capsules in China, Hong Kong and Macau. Kidron anticipates that their product will be registered in China before the US.

“The East has been catching up with the West. There are 100 million diabetics in China, but the problem is that two-thirds are undiagnosed,” said Kidron. “Due to their adoption of a non-healthy lifestyle and due to the number of undiagnosed patients for now, there are huge fears over how they are going to treat diabetes.”

Oramed’s platform can take any protein otherwise injected and administer it orally instead. The company is currently working on other products including GLP-1 Analog, which causes people to lose weight and stimulates insulin production. Last month, Oramed enrolled its first patient in an exploratory clinical study of its oral insulin capsule in the treatment of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an advanced form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.


“Once you’ve ironed out how to deliver it, you don’t need to question whether the drug works. Here we know the drug works,” according to Dr. Mark Hasleton, VP of Business Development at Oramed.

“Insulin has been proven to work, and now we have proven that the platform works as well. It’s a much more de-risked drug development progress. People have been trying for a hundred years, but nobody has got as far as Oramed.”


CAESAREA-BASED DarioHealth Corp. has harnessed big data to develop a novel method for chronic-disease data management to empower people to personalize self-administered diabetes management. Dario’s pocket-sized blood glucose monitoring system syncs with the company’s Smart Diabetes Management smartphone application to measure, record and track blood glucose levels.

DarioHealth's Blood Glucose Monitoring System syncs with the company's Smart Diabetes Management platform. (photo credit: PR)


In addition to automatically recording blood glucose measurements, the app’s built-in GPS location function allows partnering pharmacies to contact patients in case of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) emergencies.

“The digital diabetes platform is a revolution. A user can, for the first time, become much more aware of his condition,” DarioHealth’s chief financial officer Zvi Ben-David told the Post.

“This is because we are providing one platform with the ability not only to accurately measure an individual’s statistics but also all of the additional data which is relevant in order to understand how his diabetes is developing.”

DarioHealth’s platform also provides a food-data database and physical activity information as well as offering an “A1C” calculator, the most important measurement to gauge diabetes control.

“A1C is a measurement that is assessed quarterly by a blood test but we can accurately estimate it through the ongoing measurements that individuals are submitting,” Ben-David said.

DarioHealth announced on Tuesday that its diabetes platform will be rolled out to 4.6 million customers at American supermarket Giant Eagle’s 214 pharmacies.

“Our platform grants pharmacies access to online, real-time data for each and every user and enables them to contact people when they need it and give them immediate assistance,” said Ben-David.

“It’s about changing the way people with diabetes are monitored entirely – giving people treatment when they need it and not when they happen to come to the doctor.”

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