By Brian Brus
Courtesy of The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City-based Sensulin LLC, a diabetes product pharmaceutical company, has secured seed funding from a major manufacturer in the industry, Chief Executive Mike Moradi said this week.
“The advisory board we’ve put together now includes past presidents of the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation,” he said. “And now we have some heavy hitters on board, people who are dominant in the diabetes space, from both a business perspective and science perspective.
“You know how it goes with startups. There’s a long, drawn-out period where you’re just trying to prop things up and then all of a sudden the floodgate of progress opens wide. We’re just trying to take it all in,” he said.
Moradi wouldn’t reveal the identity of the funding partner, but local insiders confirmed that it’s one of the largest diabetes industry players internationally. Moradi said he could reveal more information about the business relationship later this year.
Sensulin’s entire focus is to develop a 24-hour glucose-responsive insulin that can provide a patient’s daily requirement with a single dose. The technology could eliminate the need for separate basal and prandial insulin injections and improve the overall standard of care for diabetes, said Moradi, who has a family history of the disease.
The Sensulin technology was developed by Ananth Annapragada, a researcher at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine. The idea was first pitched by business students five years ago in the Governor’s Cup business plan competition. At the time, the team Annapragada worked with was referred to as Perpetual Pharmaceuticals.
None of the initial participants are still active in the company today, Moradi said, as they had other academic responsibilities and jobs to pursue. That turnover speaks to the long-term perspective necessary in developing pharmaceuticals. The product is still two years away from a human clinical trial and then a few more years before commercialization, Moradi said.
Much of Sensulin’s product development and research feedback comes from professionals spread across the country. Creative science in the age of the Internet no longer depends on a physical presence, Moradi said. Although that might support arguments that there’s no guarantee of local incubator funding staying in place, it also improves the likelihood of success and establishing a home base for top executives. Moradi said he has no intention to move out of Oklahoma.
The company recently received the 2013 annual Michael E. DeBakey Life Science Award in recognition of its high potential to commercialize an important product. Sensulin earlier was presented the Rice Alliance Most Promising Life Science Technology Award.