Next-generation insulin developer Thermalin Diabetes has closed a $2.85 million Series A investment round.
The Cleveland-based startup plans to use the funding to step up production of its insulin analogs — new proteins engineered to act like insulin in the body — and continue preclinical testing.
The insulin analogs are heat resistant, unlike the natural hormone, and can be engineered to act more quickly or slowly than insulin, depending on a diabetic’s needs.
Thermalin has been slowly adding to its Series A round over the last year or so. In October, the round stood at $1.9 million, for example. Investors include various angels and Cleveland economic development and venture group JumpStart, which contributed $500,000, Thermalin CEO Rick Berenson said.
“We ended up raising $1 million more than our original target,” Berenson said. “There’s been lots of interest in our project because we’ve made substantial progress along the way.”
Thermalin has developed about 40 different types of insulin analogs, and one of its next key decisions will be choosing which ones to test with an eye toward commercialization in the next few years. It’s likely the company will end up selecting just a few compounds for its commercialization program.
In large-animal testing, one of the compounds has shown early promise, working 30 percent faster than leading fast-acting analogs on the market today, Berenson said.
Thermalin will also use the capital infusion to make some key hires. A senior scientist will be starting shortly, bringing the company’s employment to five full-time workers and two part-timers, Berenson said.
The company’s insulin analogs were discovered by Michael Weiss, the chairman of the Biochemistry Department at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Thermalin’s chief scientific officer. Weiss and Berenson were roommates at Harvard University.
Thermalin hopes to begin testing its insulin analogs on humans sometime next year.
Thermalin is likely among Northeast Ohio’s most promising biomedical startups — both for its strong scientific foundation (which can be difficult for the outsider to verify), and the sheer size of its market (which is quite easy to verify).
In 2030, there are expected to be 366 million diabetics worldwide — more than double the amount in 2000, according to the World Health Organization. Worldwide insulin sales are expected to jump to $54 billion in 2030, compared with $12 billion in 2008, according to Thermalin.