JDRF is working with SmartCells, Inc., a biotech company based in the USA, on a new type of insulin treatment for people with type 1 diabetes.

SmartInsulin is the idea of Dr Todd Zion, the CEO of SmartCells, Inc. The concept is simple – deliver insulin in such a way that it is only released into the blood stream when it is needed.


The new approach involves using a plant-derived protein that can bind and release insulin in response to glucose levels.

The theory is that SmartInsulin could be formulated so that people with type 1 diabetes would only need to inject the drug once each day, as opposed to the multiple daily injections they need currently. Once injected, the molecules would ‘stick together’, only releasing insulin when blood sugar levels rise above a certain threshold, and stopping when these levels fall again. In this way it, should be possible for people with type 1 diabetes to have much tighter control of their blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of diabetic complications, which include heart disease, kidney disease and eye disease.

Helping people with type 1 diabetes to improve their blood glucose levels is vital to reducing the risk of complications. Improving levels by 10 per cent can reduce the risk of complications by as much as 40 per cent. SmartInsulin could offer dramatically improved blood glucose control as well as removing the need for up to six injections every single day.

JDRF’s funding will help to speed up the process of preclinical safety and efficacy testing for this exciting new treatment idea. By supporting the project through its innovative Industry Discovery and Development Partnership Program, JDRF hopes to reduce the time needed to get this therapy into clinical trials with people with type 1 diabetes.

Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., Director of JDRF’s Metabolic Control Program, explained that JDRF is committed to supporting the development of unique therapies that can improve metabolic control for people with type 1 diabetes: “We believe that glucose-regulated insulin may represent a practical solution to the real needs of people with diabetes, and this collaboration illustrates our dedication to accelerating the pace of science leading to cures and treatments for people with type 1 diabetes by helping innovative companies test concepts and bring their products to patients faster.”