Earlier this week one of our portfolio companies, Genalyte, Inc., announced the release of a groundbreaking diagnostic system for early detection of Type 1 diabetes. This is of special significance to me as the young daughter of a good friend almost died due to undiagnosed Type 1 Diabetes – she was discovered by her parents in a low blood sugar coma in the middle of the night and rushed to an emergency room. She is well now, but will require a lifetime of insulin management. Her father, my friend, is a physician, but had seen no previous signs that this little girl was developing diabetes, although he was quite aware of the disease and its complications. The reason – there is no easy, straightforward method for early detection of this disease.
Type 1 Diabetes (formerly known as juvenile diabetes) occurs when someone’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (Islet cells). This attack results in compromised insulin production, which leads to uncontrolled blood sugar levels, which has many serious side effects. (Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life). With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children with Type 1 diabetes can learn to manage the disease, but it leads to a lifetime of blood sugar monitoring and insulin injections, and the associated risks of high and low blood sugar excursions. There is no cure now, but progress is being made towards prediction and delay of onset. The disease affects about 3 million people in the US and usually is discovered before the age of 20.
Current research shows that early detection of Type 1 diabetes can enable treatment before islet cells are completely destroyed, and early treatments can delay onset of symptoms and side effects for many years. The disease is caused by specific autoantibodies (antibodies are proteins that destroy bacteria or viruses; autoantibodies are antibodies ‘gone bad,’ which attack the body’s own tissues.) which can be detected in the blood of 85-90% of patients with Type 1 Diabetes. Since autoantibodies and proteins can be monitored with blood tests, there is a need for a simple comprehensive blood test that will allow early detection. Such a test is now available from Genalyte.
Early detection of the destructive autoantibodies can preserve even more of the Islet cells, and could even develop into a cure with modern immunotherapies.
So what does the Genalyte diabetes detector do? The key need is to monitor seven of the autoantibodies at once, as they are known to work in concert and all are important for a early detection test. Since this is a test that all children should take, and people with a genetic risk should take frequently, ease of monitoring is also important. This means that the test needs to be done in a doctor’s office or walk in clinic. No-one likes to give blood, but the Genalyte test only needs a tiny drop of blood from a finger prick. The Genalyte technology allows for the first time a rapid, simple, non-invasive test for early detection of Type 1 Diabetes. Genalyte is also collaborating with the Center for Childhood Diabetes (BDC) at the University of Colorado School of Medicine to further develop and test multiplexed antigen panels for the early detection of diabetes.
The unique capabilities of the Genalyte detection platform have the potential to provide researchers and clinicians with tools to detect and track this process from an early stage, when interventions to interrupt the disease process will be most effective.
The Genalyte System also can test many other clinically important areas, such as biomarkers, antibodies, peptides, cytokines and antigens, using computer chips custom designed for the system.
With this Type 1 Diabetes test, the promise is that young people who are susceptible to the disease will be detected very early and will be able to undertake therapies that will slow down or cure the disease.
Claremont Creek Ventures specializes in digital healthcare investments in small companies with revolutionary health care innovations.
Genalyte is at the forefront of the new developments in diagnostic tools that will find applications in every area of complex disease diagnosis and treatment. Founded in 2007, Genalyte, Inc. is commercializing a new approach to disease detection that uses a silicon chip containing arrays of photonic ring sensors to reduce or eliminate sample preparation and provide scalable multiplexing for both proteins and nucleic acids. The one-step workflow of the Genalyte System can deliver accurate results in as little as 15 minutes from small volume samples of many types. It has a large dynamic range and excellent sensitivity with outstanding reproducibility. For more information, visit www.genalyte.com.