The paper in Nature Chemistry details the science behind Ziylo’s platform, which Novo Nordisk purchased in August to pioneer a new drug discovery programme developing smart insulins. The deal, which could eventually be worth over USD$800m, was the largest exit on record for a University of Bristol spin-out.
Carbometrics, the new vehicle set up by the founders of Ziylo, is developing the technology for its other use – to revolutionise glucose sensors for continuous glucose monitoring.
CEO of Carbometrics, Dr Harry Destecroix said “Previously, if you wanted to build a glucose sensor or a smart insulin, you only really had two technologies to choose from: natural glucose binding molecules and enzymes, or human-made boronic acids. These two components underpin almost all the technology we see on the market today.
“The science developed by Prof. Tony Davis’ Group at the University of Bristol is a completely novel way to bind to glucose. These receptors outperform anything found in nature. There is an enormous opportunity to build new glucose monitors and smart insulins from the ground up, upon much stronger foundations.
“A few years from now, we could see life-saving technologies brought to market, underpinned by this science, changing the lives of millions of diabetics.”
In 2016, diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death globally (according to the World Health Organisation), and in the UK around 10% of the NHS budget is spent treating the disease and its complications.
Professor Davis, who has been at the forefront of research into synthetic sugar receptors for the last 20 years, said: “For many years we have been trying to design a molecule which binds glucose strongly and selectively in its natural environment (water).
“Until recently we had achieved some success, but never sufficient for practical applications. Now we have made a design change and finally solved the problem.
“Indeed, our new molecule performs better than anyone would have thought possible. It binds glucose 100 times more strongly than any of our previous efforts and is almost perfectly selective for its target, and most importantly it does this not only in water but in blood! It is fully comparable with the natural molecules that bind glucose, despite being many times smaller and much more stable.”
Nature Biotechnology recently published an article on the applications of the technology.
The founders of Ziylo are behind Bristol science incubator Unit DX, where Carbometrics is based.
Read the paper in Nature chemistry here.