Merck acquires diabetes specialist SmartCells for smart insulin tech

Pharma giant Merck will acquire SmartCells, a private company developing a smart, glucose-responsive insulin formula to treat diabetes.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck on Thursday announced that it would acquire SmartCells, a private company developing a glucose-responsive insulin formula to treat diabetes.

Diabetes, of course, affects 23.6 million Americans -- nearly 8 percent of the population, according to the American Diabetes Association. It goes hand-in-hand with obesity, which affects more than a third of Americans.

It's the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. -- heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease and blindness are all complications -- and another 1.6 million cases are added every year.

Through the acquisition, Merck acquires the Beverly, Mass.-based company's "SmartInsulin" technology, a self-regulating, once-a-day injectable formula that reduces the incidence of hypoglycemia and handles both meal and non-meal times of the day.

Specifically, the smart insulin tech regulates itself by responding to the plasma concentration of a molecular indicator -- that is, within a specific range of glucose concentration.

The product is currently in pre-clinical, or non-human, testing. It was originally developed by Todd Zion at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"If this investigational technology is ultimately approved for use with patients, it could provide an important new therapy for the treatment of diabetes," Merck Research diabetes and obesity chief Nancy Thornberry said in a statement.

Merck will acquire all outstanding stock of SmartCells, with SmartCells shareholders receiving both cash payment and eligibility to receive clinical development and regulatory milestones for products, "for potential aggregate payments in excess of $500 million."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com