Merck Serono spin-out progressing oral therapy for type 2 disease through Phase II trials.

French diabetes drug company Poxel raised €16 million (about $21 million) in a Series A financing round led by Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners. The Merck Serono spin-out said a large portion of the funds will be used to progress clinical development of its Phase II-stage type 2 diabetes therapy candidate, Imeglimin.

Imeglimin is an oral antidiabetic that has demonstrated efficacy and safety in two Phase IIa trials. Poxel says the drug is an oxidative phosphorylation blocker that acts to inhibit hepatic gluconeogenesis, increase muscle glucose uptake, and restore normal insulin secretion. Imeglimin is in development for use both as monotherapy and in combination with other diabetes treatments.

The drug is Poxel’s lead candidate for treatment of type 2 diabetes, and its first to move into clinical development. The firm’s preclinical pipeline includes a nonpeptide GLP-1 receptor agonist, currently undergoing lead optimization. Poxel claims that unlike peptide-based GLP-1 agonists, its candidate can be developed as an orally active product. Additional products undergoing lead optimization at Poxel include an AMPK activator, a farnesoid X receptor agonist, glucokinase activators, and 11β-HSD1 inhibitors. The company says its strategy is to develop products to the Phase II proof-of-concept stage before partnering with the industry.

Poxel was spun out of Merck Serono in 2009 as a result of the latter’s decision not to pursue its diabetes R&D.  Focused primarily on type 2 disease, Poxel has inherited a number of projects from the Merck Serono pipeline. It aims to focus on the development of products with new mechanisms of action that impact on both glucose metabolism and other cardiovascular risk factors.

The firm says figures suggest that there were some 220 million people worldwide with type 2 diabetes in 2007, which resulted in type 2 diabetes therapies achieving a global turnover of some €9.6 billion (about $12 billion). This figure is expected to rise to about €15 billion (nearly $19 billion) by 2016.

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