Serafina: Hi I’m Serafina and we’re at Angel MD’s Alpha Conference over in Napa, California where I’m joined by Mike Moradi, CEO of Sensulin. Mike thank you so much for joining us today.
Mike: Excited to be here.
Serafina: So tell me about the problem you seek to tackle, diabetes.
Mike: Diabetes. There are 466 million people around the world with the disease and for those that are Type 1, which is maybe 10% of the population, they typically need 48 injections every day and we aim to reduce that hopefully to 1. For the Type 2 crowd, which is 9 out of the 10 patients, we offer a safer, more convenient form of insulin which should help patients avoid the long term complications of the disease such as eye disease, kidney disease; all of the things that rob you of quality of life.
Serafina: How long has this been the standard of care?
Mike: I have a Merck Manual from 1933 which describes a basal or slow-acting insulin and then a rapid-acting insulin and frankly, we do have newer forms of recombinant human insulin that were developed by Genentech here in the Bay Area, but largely that same paradigm of a slow-acting insulin and quick-acting insulin has not changed and the construct was invented in 1922, so almost 100 years.
Serafina: Pretty antiquated, yeah.
Mike: So we hope to move away from that paradigm.
Serafina: So how exactly is your technology changing the paradigm? What is the drug mechanism?
Mike: We encapsulate recombinant human insulin inside of a liposome and the liposomes are cross-linked, or glued together if you will, using a family of boronate linkers. Which if you think about it, these competitively bind to glucose so you have a large number of these insulin containing liposomes that are injected just as you would any other insulin and they form a depo in the subcutaneous tissue where they will begin to slowly diffuse insulin out of the liposomes and they will continue to do that slowly until the patient eats or drinks anything containing sugar.
So within 10 to 15 minutes you will find that glucose works its way into the skin at which point it binds to the linkers causing the liposomes to sort of cleave away from the depo which therefore increases the insulin release rate. It is a reversible reaction in the sense that when the stimulus subsides you have fewer liposomes cleaving away which means you go back to that same basal release rate. So it’s really just elegant chemistry to solve a very complicated problem.
Serafina: Right. So short and sweet it’s a glucose responsive insulin.
Serafina: Which seems pretty intuitive; why hasn’t it happened before?
Mike: That’s a good question. It’s a very difficult thing to do. Our Co-founder was at a company called Sequus which developed the stealth liposome platform. This was the very first FDA approved drug in the 90s and frankly the chemistry was not possible up until recently.
Serafina: What made it possible?
Mike: The advances that they made in helping liposomes avoid creating an immune response. And on the linker chemistry side, the boronates have been used on the diagnostic side of the glucose sensing industry if you will, but they weren’t particularly great at that purpose but for our application they’re perfect. So you might think of it as these two individual innovations are sort of coming together into a third and that just took time for science.
Serafina: And out came Sensulin. I’m sure many iterations later came Sensulin but here we are today and so tell me where you stand as a company right now.
Mike: Sire. We aim to finalize our clinical candidates this year and then prepare for a human clinical study which we’re targeting in the third quarter for 2019. The design is that we would be going right into Type 1 patients. So we are finally at the point where I feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s been a long road to get there so I’m just elated.
Serafina: Yeah, we’re excited to follow your journey. So tell me a little bit about yourself; what brought you to this space? You’re not an MD by training.
Mike: That’s correct. I’m a biochemist that dropped out of dental school to do startups for a living and was very happily in the advanced materials semi-conductor space. We had a nanoparticle titanium dioxide that we sold to DuPont which this was used for automotive coatings, sunscreens, anything that could be damaged by the sun. And then had another company that succeeded in the carbon nanotube space that made the transparent conductive layer for like the very thin, flat panel TVs.
So I enjoyed doing that until 10 years ago when I looked around and realized that pretty much everybody on both sides of my family was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes between the ages of 40 and 60, including both of my parents, and that made me realize one, I needed to lose a bunch of weight which I’ve kept off for a decade. It made me think long and hard about where I wanted to spend my time and my entrepreneurial talents. And ultimately that’s what led me to start the company prior to this which was working in the eye; diabetic complications of the eye like Glaucoma, Diabetic Macular Edema.
I bumped into my Co-founder who is just one of these phenomenal entrepreneurial scientists who spent time in industry and just keeps churning out company after company. I can’t even take credit for finding the idea, it was these business plan competitions. We had two very bright MBS students, one of which was MBA MD, so they found the original technology, wrote the business plan, ended up winning a fair amount of money at the Rice competition and then afterwards they just went off and paid off debt, so I thought let’s just start the company.
Serafina: So tell me about your experience with Angel MD.
Mike: We were one of the very first companies on the Angel MD platform back when Tobin and Jens were just getting started. They were kind enough to introduce us to several investors some of whom are now following on into our B round. So we wouldn’t exist without the generosity of Tobin and Jens and their introductions and of course the physicians who are now helping us solve these very important challenges. And frankly I’m excited to be working with Angel MD again in this new round.
Serafina: Great and good luck to you in your series B, we look forward to hearing more about it.
Mike: Thank you so much.
Serafina: That was Mike Moradi of Sensulin at the Alpha Conference.
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