Editor’s note: This story was reported from San Diego during the 2014 BIO International Convention
By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
SAN DIEGO — Etched on a small wooden sign outside a biotechnology laboratory in La Jolla, Calif., just north of here, are the words “Sensulin, LLC,” a startup company with headquarters more than 1,300 miles to the east in Oklahoma City.
Co-founded by Oklahoma entrepreneur Mike Moradi, Sensulin is advancing a patented technology that regulates the release of insulin in diabetes patients throughout the day.
If Sensulin’s technology lives up to the promise it has shown in the lab, type 1 diabetes patients could reduce the number of insulin injections required each day to regulate blood sugar from as many as seven to as few as one.
Sensulin hired San Diego-based scientist Christopher Rhodes to lead development of the company’s product. The La Jolla lab is shared between Sensulin and Rhodes’ other company, Drug Delivery Experts LLC.
“Startups are global from day one,” Moradi said. “Our chief financial officer and I are in Oklahoma City, our co-founder is in Texas and our labs are here in San Diego. This is by far the best team I’ve ever worked with at any stage of the company’s development.”
Co-founder and chief scientific officer Ananth Annapragada is a researcher at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Annapragada created the technology when he discovered a way to encapsulate insulin in liposomes as a way to control its release into the body.
Founded in 2011, Sensulin has attracted substantial interest from diabetes industry insiders. Chairman of the board is Dan Bradbury, the company’s largest investor and former CEO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, which did groundbreaking work in developing diabetes therapeutics.
The company’s advisory board also includes Amylin’s chief medical officer, a past president of the American Diabetes Association, a past CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the executive who ran Merck’s diabetes franchise.
Rhodes also brings an impressive drug development pedigree to Sensulin. He was a key scientist on Amylin’s drug development team, and before that, with a diabetes therapeutic company called Mannkind, which is nearing FDA approval for an inhalable insulin.
Rhodes and a team of three other full-time scientists at the La Jolla lab will prepare the Sensulin product for eventual clinical trials.
“Diabetes in general, I think it has great potential,” Rhodes said on Sunday as he and Moradi led a guest on a tour through the laboratory. “And when I look at the other things that have been done based on pharmaceutical development, I think the Sensulin program has a lot of opportunity.”
Serendipity brought the world’s largest biotech trade show, the 2014 Biotechnology International Organization convention, to San Diego just as Sensulin opened its lab here. Moradi plans to make the most of the opportunity.
“One of the things I love about BIO is that you can meet with people from everywhere — Germany, France, Japan,” Moradi said. “Where there are opportunities to talk to investors and potential partners at the BIO show, now we can invite them out to our lab.”