Helmsley and Akston Biosciences Corporation Announce Partnership to Advance Novel Technology to Treat Type 1 Diabetes
New Therapy Will Target Cells Responsible for Autoimmune Disease
New York, NY and Beverly, MA—The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and Akston Biosciences Corporation today announced a partnership to advance Akston’s novel insulin engineering technology to prevent the clinical onset of type 1 diabetes. Akston’s lead product candidate, AKS-107, is designed to be injected in at-risk, pre-diabetic individuals to disrupt problematic cells that may be responsible for type 1 diabetes, thereby reducing the chances that individuals develop diabetes.
At Helmsley, we are always seeking to expand the set of tools that we can use to advance our mission while supporting the goals we share with our partners. The PRI is a powerful way to catalyze meaningful change.
Gina Agiostratidou, Type 1 Diabetes Program Director
As part of the agreement, Helmsley will provide up to $3.1 million over the next two years to support manufacturing development, preclinical safety and efficacy testing, and regulatory filings to advance AKS-107 into clinical trials. The partnership is structured as a program-related investment (PRI) in the form of a loan to Akston.
“At Helmsley, we are always seeking to expand the set of tools that we can use to advance our mission while supporting the goals we share with our partners. The PRI is a powerful way to catalyze meaningful change,” said Gina Agiostratidou, Ph.D., MBA, Director of Helmsley’s Type 1 Diabetes Program. “We see tremendous value in working with creative companies like Akston who aim to develop innovative therapies to help people struggling daily with a relentless disease.”
In type 1 diabetes, the body mistakenly recognizes its own insulin-producing cells as foreign and mounts an attack against them. This attack involves certain “rogue” cells that are made by the immune system. Akston’s AKS-107 is a modified, non-bioactive version of insulin that is capable of disrupting these rogue cells while leaving the rest of the body’s cells unharmed.
“Akston’s targeted immunotherapy represents an innovative approach with a clear path to clinical testing,” said Ben Williams, Ph.D., Program Officer of Helmsley’s Type 1 Diabetes Program. “Preventing and delaying the development of type 1 diabetes is one of our core objectives, and we are delighted to help accelerate the progress of this promising work at Akston.”
“We are very pleased to have the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s support for this program to complement the continuing support we have just received from the NIH,” said Todd C. Zion, Ph.D., President and CEO of Akston Biosciences. “Helmsley joins our growing consortium of private, public, and philanthropic investors to support our world-class team of insulin engineers and thought leaders in the field of type 1 diabetes. We are now evaluating a number of pharmaceutical companies to identify the right partner to help support our upcoming proof-of-concept clinical studies.”
About Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects children, adolescents, and adults, in which the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that enables people to convert sugar into energy. Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. have type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes are dependent on insulin replacement therapy for the rest of their lives. However, replacing insulin is not a cure, and people with diabetes are at significant risk for a wide range of serious complications including heart disease, amputation, blindness, and kidney disease.
About the Helmsley Charitable Trust
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting effective organizations in health, place-based initiatives, education and human services. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $1.8 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. www.helmsleytrust.org
About Akston Biosciences Corporation
Akston Biosciences Corporation is a leader in the field of insulin engineering. The company was founded in 2011 by the former SmartCells, Inc. team who developed the world’s first clinical glucose-responsive insulin (SmartCells was acquired by Merck & Co. in 2010). Combining its core expertise with modern biotechnology manufacturing techniques, Akston is developing new classes of biologic therapeutics for use in autoimmune type 1 diabetes prevention, ultra-long acting insulin therapy, and oncology to dramatically improve both human and animal health. www.akstonbio.com
Alan Watson, Ph.D., VP, Business Development
Laura Fahey, Communications Officer