The Science Behind the Fairbanks Therapeutic Strategy

Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals developing new type of diabetes therapy

Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals was selected as a semi-finalist for this year’s Diabetes Challenge competition.  The poster pictured above was submitted for display at the May 21st event that will include a pitch competition among the finalists.

The poster first emphasizes that diabetes is caused by inadequate production of the hormone insulin and, critically, that insulin comes only from cells called beta cells.  In type 1 diabetes, beta cells are destroyed by a patient’s immune system leaving them without insulin for the rest of their lives.  In type 2 diabetes, which affects 95% of diabetic patients, beta cells gradually lose insulin production for a variety of reasons and eventually fail to secrete enough insulin to control blood glucose, leading to a host of associated maladies.  Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals is developing a new type of therapy that will restore function to these beta cells and over time, induce regeneration of new beta cells in order to restore natural insulin production.

The next panel shows the scientific evidence that led to this therapeutic strategy.  A protein called FSTL3 regulates growth factors in the TGF-beta family known as activin, GDF11, and myostatin.  By eliminating FSTL3 in mice we found that their islets were doubled in size and they contained many more beta cells.  This allowed them to more easily control blood glucose and were more sensitive to insulin that was produced by these beta cells (red lines on graphs on right side).  This suggested that a therapy which could completely block FSTL3 might induce more beta cells and better insulin production, the basis for Fairbanks’ therapy.

On the right side of the poster is our research and development team as well as our scientific advisory board that includes basic scientists who are experts in FSTL3 and the TGF-beta family, diabetes clinicians who are also researchers, and diabetes clinicians who have successfully developed drugs for diabetes.

Below that is a panel showing that Fairbanks has produced at least 1 antibody that can neutralize FSTL3 (FP-101).  In one test of its activity, this antibody was used to treat human islets (containing beta cells) that behaved like defective diabetic islets.  After 24 hours of treatment, the defective islets regained their ability to secrete insulin in response to elevated glucose, suggesting that the antibody could restore diabetic islet function as proposed.  This also indicates that the FSTL3-activin system is functional in human islets.

Finally, the last panel indicates that Fairbanks has applied for a patent and funded its work so far with personal funds, a Phase 1 SBIR grant (completed April 2017) and is awaiting the imminent start of our Phase II grant.