Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals was awarded a pilot grant from the UMass Office of the President’s Science and Technology Fund to screen small molecules with the goal of identifying compounds that will promote the transdifferentiation of pancreatic alpha cells into insulin secreting beta cells.
This highly competitive funding program was created by UMass to stimulate the development of high impact therapeutic candidates. Proposals were selected based on assay feasibility, medical relevance, and commercialization potential.
Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals received a second award from the Massachusetts Life Science Center to hire a new technician intern starting in July 2016. Alyssa Berthelette, a 2016 graduate from Assumption College with a degree in Biology, was selected to replace Eddie Mesiti who departed July 31 to continue his education. Welcome Aboard Alyssa!
Dr. Alan Schneyer, CEO/CSO and Co-founder of Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals, is the Principal Investigator (PI) of an SBIR grant from The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at The National Institutes of Health (NIH). The award begins immediately and funds our research that will identify a number of candidate compounds using our proprietary screening bioassay, comparing them for biochemical and biological properties, and testing the top candidates for biological activity in islet culture assays.
The award lasts for a one year period. It is anticipated that the successful completion of this Phase 1 award will lead to a larger Phase 2 award, which will allow testing the biological activity of lead compounds in animals. The goal of Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals, and this SBIR grant, is to develop compounds that lead to regeneration of insulin-producing beta cells to replace those lost to either type 1 or type 2 diabetes and thereby partially or completely eliminate diabetes in these patients. Stay tuned for progress reports….
Fairbanks scientists collaborated with UMass-Amherst faculty to determine whether the increase in insulin-producing beta cells observed numerous times in FSTL3 knockout mice results, at least in part, from enhancing alpha to beta cell transdifferentiation. A process called “lineage tracing” in which alpha cells are permanently marked with a yellow tag was used to monitor their fate over time. Alpha cells typically produce glucagon, a hormone that counteracts insulin and helps prevent glucose from falling too much. Yellow cells that now produce insulin (a hallmark of beta cells) were identified in wild type mice and the number of these cells was increased significantly in mice in which the FSTL3 gene was inactivated (FSTL3 Knockout mice) that have elevated activin signaling.
These results support our hypothesis that activin and related growth factors enhance alpha to beta cell transdifferentiation resulting in increased numbers of functional beta cells.
These results were published in the journal Endocrinology in March 2016 (Endocrinology 157: 1043–1054, 2016). View in Pubmed