Clinical trials with direct AMPK activator candidate are projected for 2012.

Mercury Therapeutics granted Debiopharm an exclusive license to its preclinical diabetes candidate, which will be designated Debio 0930. Debiopharm will provide Mercury with financial support for continuing R&D in addition to development milestones and royalties.

Debio 0930 is a small molecule activator of AMPK (adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase). It is being developed to treat type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disease. Mercury points out that while a number of marketed antidiabetic drugs including metformin and pioglitazone (Takeda Pharmaceutical’s Actos®) act indirectly to activate AMPK.

The company aim is to develop the first orally available direct AMPK activator. The companies say that clinical trials are expected to begin in 2012.

Mercury, which was founded in 2001, obtained an exclusive license to a patent from Dartmouth College and St. Vincent’s Institute for Biomedical Research in Melbourne, Australia, for AMPK activated protein kinase (AMPK). The firm believes that AMPK is a well-validated but largely unexploited protein kinase drug target in metabolic disease.

The estimated cost of diabetes in the U.S. was $174 billion in 2007, including $116 billion in excess medical expenditures and $58 billion in reduced national productivity, according to American Diabetes Association figures. Medical costs attributed to diabetes included $27 billion for care to directly treat diabetes, $58 billion for treating diabetes-related chronic complications, and $31 billon in excess general medical costs.

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