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Teasing Out Next-Generation Diabetes Drugs

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

Many start-ups are developing diabetes drugs based on known targets which could attract Big Pharma partners and get to the clinic quickly, while a few invest in novel compounds that are either riskier or address the field's smaller subsets. Among the former are Phenomix, Plexxikon, CareX and Prosidion; among the latter are DiaKine, and DiaMedica. In all cases, these companies are looking to partner with Big Pharma, which is aggressively pursuing small-molecule drugs for diabetes.

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Advances in Diabetes Management

The goals being touted in the treatment of diabetes are lofty, with the development of a functional and affordable artificial pancreas topping the list of ambitious undertakings in the industry. The pursuit of such a device has been a Holy Grail quest for some time now, and over the years the feasibility of developing a man-made mechanism to take the place of a faulty body organ has been treated with a share of optimism and skepticism. However, based on recent FDA approvals for multiple manufacturers, it appears the industry is closer than it has ever been to making this goal a reality.

Profiles of Two Iconoclasts

In recent years, most venture capital firms have focused on investing in companies with well-developed product pipelines. In this issue of START-UP, we profile two trendsetters: Fred Cohen, managing director at Texas Pacific Group Ventures; and Christoph Westphal, formerly a partner at Polaris Ventures and now vice chairman and CEO of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. Both men are physician scientists turned investors, who have tapped into their scientific and clinical knowledge to make investments in "high concept" discovery stage companies. And although the investments are intriguing, it's too early to say whether or not the strategies adopted by these two men will yield returns for their backers.

Profiles of Two Iconoclasts

In recent years, most venture capital firms have focused on investing in companies with well-developed product pipelines. In this issue of START-UP, we profile two trendsetters: Fred Cohen, managing director at Texas Pacific Group Ventures; and Christoph Westphal, formerly a partner at Polaris Ventures and now vice chairman and CEO of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. Both men are physician scientists turned investors, who have tapped into their scientific and clinical knowledge to make investments in "high concept" discovery stage companies. And although the investments are intriguing, it's too early to say whether or not the strategies adopted by these two men will yield returns for their backers.

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