Woman injecting insulin, daily diabetes care during COVID-19
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The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard today announced a research alliance with Novo Nordisk in diabetes and cardiometabolic diseases. The collaboration aims to advance three programs over the next three years. Two programs will seek drug targets for specific subtypes of type 2 diabetes and the third aims to uncover the genetic roots of cardiac fibrosis.

“Diabetes and cardiac fibrosis are two conditions in dire need of new therapies,” said Todd Golub,MD, director of the Broad.

The alliance will use genetics, genomics, and large-scale screening along with the Broad’s Center for the Development of Therapeutics to find relationships between genes and pathways that could point to therapeutic targets.

“The conditions we’re exploring impact millions of people worldwide,” said Uli Stilz, head of Novo Nordisk’s Bio Innovation Hub in Boston. “Together, we’re able to leverage the full breadth of scientific expertise between our two organizations. This collaboration has the potential not only to accelerate our understanding of the diseases, but also potentially enable scientific advancements in disease-modifying interventions—a true game changer in addressing cardiometabolic diseases.”

Type 2 diabetes affects more than 37 million people in the United States alone. Most current diabetes treatments target high blood sugar, though the condition has many root causes. The two diabetes programs in this collaboration will aim to identify therapeutic targets for both non-weight mediated insulin resistance and loss of beta cell function. There are no safe and effective therapies for reversing disease in either of these subtypes of the disease.

“This is potentially transformative,” said Jose Florez, who will co-direct the new initiative. Florez is an institute member at the Broad, where he directs the Diabetes Research Group. He is also chair of the Department of Medicine at MGH. “Right now, we have nothing that reverses diabetes. Addressing these processes at the root, rather than simply treating the symptoms, would really change how we treat this disease.”

The third program is focused on cardiac fibrosis, which occurs in many cardiovascular diseases and can lead to heart dysfunction and failure. This project will leverage genetics, genomics, and machine learning. The team aims to identify and validate genes that could serve as therapeutic targets to inhibit or possibly reverse fibrosis—a condition that has few effective therapies.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. alone. Myocardial fibrosis is a significant global health problem associated with nearly all forms of heart disease.

“I think this will be a framework for future investigation into the cardiometabolic space,” said Patrick Ellinor, who will co-direct the alliance as well as direct the cardiac portion. Ellinor is interim chief of cardiology and co-director of the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center at MGH. He is also an institute member and director of the Cardiovascular Disease Initiative at the Broad.

The Novo Nordisk side of the collaboration is anchored through the Novo Nordisk Bio Innovation Hub, an R&D unit designed to bring cutting-edge life science innovation from bench to bedside through co-creation partnerships, with a strategic focus within cardiometabolic, rare blood, and rare endocrine disorders.

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