Vertex plunks down $950M for stem cell player Semma Therapeutics, as reported by Amirah Al Idrus for, 3 September 2019.  More BIG $$ for diabetes tech!!!

Vertex Pharmaceuticals is jumping into diabetes. The cystic fibrosis specialist is snapping up Semma Therapeutics and its stem cell-based diabetes treatments for $950 million in an all-cash deal slated to close in the fourth quarter. 

Douglas Melton, Ph.D., founded Semma in 2014 to work on a potential cure for Type 1 diabetes. His idea was turning undifferentiated pluripotent stem cells into insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells that could be transplanted into patients. Semma’s approach to treating diabetes is two-pronged:

    • One is a transplant of pancreatic cells directly into the liver of patients, where they will produce insulin to control blood sugar levels. However, such transplants require long-term immunosuppression so that the immune system does not reject the treatment.
    • The other involves a device that delivers and protects the transplanted cells from the patient’s immune system.

Now, Vertex is betting it big on a treatment that could replace the daily injections and chronic care that make up treatment for people with Type 1 diabetes.

Read more: Vertex plunks down $950M for stem cell player Semma Therapeutics

Novo Nordisk rolls out authorized insulin generics, following similar moves by Lilly, Sanofi, by Angus Liu for, 6 September 2019. 

Novo Nordisk is the last one to join rivals and major insulin providers Eli Lilly and Sanofi in making a cost-cutting move. The Danish company will offer authorized generics of its NovoLog brands at a 50% discount from their originators, it said Friday.

In addition, Novo will introduce a $99 cash card program, through which patients, regardless their insurance status, can buy three vials or two packs of FlexPen or FlexTouch at any combination of analog insulins for a flat cost of $99. The amount is enough to cover a month’s supply for most diabetes patients.

Both programs will officially launch in January 2020, Novo said.

Scientists identify a trigger for type 1 diabetes in mice, as reported by Robby Berman for, 5 September 2019.  

A new study appearing in the journal Science Immunology suggests that a phantom switch causes the body’s immune system to start destroying its insulin, resulting in the onset of diabetes. If this discovery in mice translates to humans, it could enable early detection and the development of preventive therapies for type 1 diabetes.

A landmark study carried out over 40 years ago revealed that the driver of type 1 diabetes is renegade HLA (human leukocyte antigen). These proteins live on the surface of cells and instruct the immune system to attack foreign organisms and substances. The study identified that a subset of mutated HLAs bearing a distinct genetic signature was binding to insulin molecules and somehow attracting the attention of immune-system T cells, which then sought out and destroyed insulin and beta cells.

The new report, authored by scientists from Scripps Research, and led by professor of immunology and microbiology Luc Teyton, M.D., Ph.D., has uncovered a likely mechanism, at least in mice.  The scientists’ analysis revealed a mechanism they dubbed the “P9 switch.” The switch belonged to CD4+ T cells, and when the switch was active, the T cells responded to the mutated HLAs and proceeded to attack insulin.

However, these switches existed for just a short while, causing a flurry of insulin destruction and then disappearing altogether. This could explain why other researchers have not discovered such a mechanism in people with diabetes — the switch is long gone by the time diabetes symptoms appear.  It also turned out that these anti-insulin T cells resided within the same islets as insulin and beta cells, their proximity making them that much more effective and dangerous. How these T cells become weaponized in this manner remains an unanswered question.

Read more:  Scientists identify a trigger for type 1 diabetes in mice

Pharma sinks to new low⁠—and takes last place⁠—in consumer sentiment poll, as reported by Beth Snyder Bulik for, 4 September 2019. 

Consumers think less of the pharma industry than ever before if a new poll is any indication. Pharma unseated the federal government to win the dubious honor of last place in an annual Gallup poll that asks Americans for their views on 25 industries. 

Pharma earned a -31 net positive score, marking the industry’s worst finish since Gallup began the poll in 2001. The second-to-last government score was a -27, while the next-closest industry was healthcare with a -10 net score. 

The poll measures American sentiment of U.S. business sectors and asks respondents to rate their view of each industry listed as very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative.

Pharma’s abysmal rating means Americans were more than twice as likely (58%) to rate the pharma industry negatively than positively (27%), Gallup said in its report. The pharma showing was so bad that few industries have ever ranked lower than its current -31. Only the government, oil and gas, real estate and the auto industry have ever fallen lower in the 19 years of the poll.


Spiraling microbiome tester uBiome files for bankruptcy protection was written Conor Hale for, 5 September 2019. 

Just shy of the one-year anniversary of a successful, $83 million venture capital round—meant to catapult the at-home microbiome test company into its first foray in drug development—uBiome has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company’s downward spiral entered the public spotlight in late April: FBI agents raided uBiome’s San Francisco headquarters, confiscating computers and documents, as part of a probe into its billing practices and potential financial connections to prescribing physicians. The search brought to a head parallel inquiries by insurance companies, California state regulators and other law enforcement agencies.

Read more:  Spiraling microbiome tester uBiome files for bankruptcy protection

How stress raises your blood sugar was written by Ginger Vieira for, 5 September 2019.  This is just so true and I’m sure we’ve all lived it. 
On my wedding day, my blood sugar did not dip below 400, even though I didn’t even eat the food or cake, all day, no matter how much insulin I injected.  UNTIL it was all over … hours later, my blood sugar plummeted … all the insulin showed up on my wedding night!

A severe argument, infection or physical injury, intense sadness, sudden shock, intense thrill (like a roller coaster ride), or even the fun of trying to score a goal in your championship soccer game can call for an increase in stress-related hormones which lead to an increase in your blood sugar.

    • “Cortisol affects almost every organ and tissue in the body, but its primary job is to regulate how the body responds to stress,” explains Asha Brown, founder of WeAreDiabetes.  Higher levels of cortisol blunt your body’s sensitivity to insulin. “Cortisol plays a major role in blood sugar management, and it’s not often emphasized in type 1 diabetes management, and it should be.”
    • Adrenaline is part of your body’s “flight or fight” response to a sudden incident, no matter whether that incident leaves you feeling happy or sad. Adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) helps your body respond to stress by signaling to your liver to release the hormone glucagon, which is essentially glucose stored in your liver. Glucagon is then converted into glucose in your bloodstream. 
Managing your blood sugar around stress can be simple or complex depending on the type and duration of the stress.  Check your blood sugars during and after stressful events — remembering that fun things can be stressful on the body, too.

Study investigates how dietary fat can affect insulin dosing in type 1 diabetes, as reported by Benedict Jephcote for, 5 September 2019.  We all know that dietary fats can slow down the absorption of food and affect the timing and dosing of insulin.  So … here’s the latest study.
A new study, by researchers from Australia and the USA, has investigated the dose adjustments needed for handling differing levels of fat for people with type 1 diabetes using insulin pumps.  The researchers found that the more fat the meals contained, the lower blood glucose levels were in the first two hours of eating the meal and the higher blood glucose levels were in two to five hours after eating.
    • For the 20g of fat meal, a dual-wave bolus was delivered over 73 minutes. This meal required 6% more insulin than the meal without fat and the split of insulin across the two waves of the dual-wave bolus was 74% of the dose for the first wave and 26% of the dose for the second wave.
    • For the 40g of fat meal, a dual-wave bolus was delivered over 75 minutes. This meal also required 6% more insulin than the meal without fat and the split of insulin across the dual-wave bolus was 63% of the dose on the first wave and 37% for the second wave.
    • For the 60g of fat meal required the dual-wave bolus to be delivered over 105 minutes. The meal required 21% more insulin than the meal without fat. The split of insulin across the two waves of bolus were 49% of the dose for the first wave and 51% for the second wave.

And for a final bit, for fun … Scientists identify genetic components of left-handedness was reported by Catharine Paddock, PhD for, 6 September 2019. 

For the first time, scientists have pinpointed regions of human DNA that closely relate to whether people are right- or left-handed. They also linked these regions to language-related features in the brain. A recent paper about the new study appeared in the journal Brain. The authors describe how they found the DNA regions after analyzing the genomes of around 400,000 UK Biobank participants, including more than 38,000 who said that they were left-handed.

The study is the first to relate specific areas of the genome to handedness in the general population.  “Around 90% of people are right-handed,” says first study author Dr. Akira Wiberg, a Medical Research Council fellow at the University of Oxford, “and this has been the case for at least 10,000 years.”

“Here, we have demonstrated that left-handedness is a consequence of the developmental biology of the brain, in part driven by the complex interplay of many genes”, says co-senior author Dominic Furniss, a professor in the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology, and Musculoskeletal Science at the University of Oxford.  “It is part of the rich tapestry of what makes us human,” he adds.

Read more:  Scientists identify genetic components of left-handedness

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