Pasadena-based biopharmaceutical startup Protomer Technologies Inc. has closed a second investment raise for a drug platform that includes an insulin product that adjusts to varying glucose levels in patients.

Protomer’s drug platform consists of proteins that can sense concentrations of specific molecules in the body and be dialed up or down to achieve variable dosing of a drug. 


For diabetes patients, this means increasing or decreasing the flow of insulin depending on the amount of blood sugar in the bloodstream at a particular time.
Protomer was founded in 2014 by a team of Caltech researchers led by Alborz Mahdavi, who is also Protomer’s chief executive.


The Nov. 5 funding announcement said the investment came from Boston-based venture philanthropy fund JDRF T1D, which stands for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for Type 1 Diabetes. The foundation has poured more than $2 billion into Type 1 diabetes research.


That follows an initial equity investment led by Indianapolis-based pharma giant Eli Lilly and Co.


“The investment, initially led by Lilly and now supported by JDRF T1D Fund, further validates Protomer’s platform technology and helps advance our science to better serve the needs of patients,” Mahdavi said in the announcement. “This round of financing positions us to advance our insulin program and the MEPS platform.”


Protomer has declined to disclose the amount of either investment round. In addition, Protomer has received several multimillion-dollar research grants.


The JDRF said it has invested in Protomer because it believes the drug platform the company is developing could dramatically change insulin delivery for diabetes patients.


“Protomer’s novel mechanism for glucose-responsive insulin is extremely promising and has the potential to be a game changer for people with type 1 diabetes,” Katie Ellias, managing director of the JDRF T1D Fund, said in the announcement.


Of course, Protomer is still a long way from advanced clinical trials and any approvals for its drugs from the Food and Drug Administration.


But an Eli Lilly diabetes research executive said this additional investment further boosts its confidence in Protomer’s drug platform.


“Protomer’s MEPS platform has the promise to enable engineering of next generation protein therapeutics that can be controlled using small molecules,” Ruth Gimeno, Eli Lilly’s vice president for diabetes research and clinical investigation, said in the announcement.

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