American pharmaceutical giant Merck and Co. are set to buy a biotechnology company that is in the early stages of developing a new diabetes treatment, according to reports in the US. They are hoping to acquire SmartCells Inc, a company currently focused on the development of a type of insulin for constantly monitoring levels of blood sugar in the body and adjusting insulin levels accordingly.
Under this treatment, called SmartInsuli, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, diabetes patients that depend on insulin for their condition would only need as little as one injection each day of the new form of glucose-responsive insulin, instead of checking blood sugar and injecting themselves with insulin several times a day.
Although SmartInsulin has not yet been tested on humans, it is hoped that clinical testing will prove its potential for commercial use.
Merck’s deal for SmartCells could be for over USD500 million, once a range of criteria are met, as the company looks to add to its biotech portfolio. It already manufactures a couple of top-selling diabetes drugs, Janumet and Januvia, which totalled USD2.58 billion in sales in 2009.
The market for diabetes treatments is becoming increasingly competitive for pharmaceutical companies, although it is seen as a major challenge to develop safe alternatives to the drugs in current use.

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