Yesterday, Eli Lilly announced that it is acquiring Protomer Technologies, a small biotech company focused on enhancing localized, targeted, and dosage-optimized drug delivery. One main application for their technology is a glucose responsive ‘smart’ insulin that could automatically sense rising or dropping sugar levels in the body and activate only when needed.

Protomer was founded in 2014 by Caltech researchers who were investigating proteins that deliver and dose drugs based on molecular signaling. Today, the company’s top two products in development are a glucose responsive insulin and a “smart” glucagon that could give diabetics the freedom to inject insulin without fear of hypoglycemia.

Prior to yesterday’s announcement, Lilly owned 14% of Protomer after leading a November 2020 funding round. Another major investor in that round of funding was the JDRF T1D Fund. While we do not know the exact amount the Fund invested in Protomer, previous press statements indicate that most of the Fund’s investments range from $2 million to $4 million.

Under the current deal, Lilly will acquire all remaining shares of Protomer. The company stated that it is not publicizing the up-front cost or the details of the arrangement. However, one Lilly press release states that the transaction could be worth “over $1 billion.”

It is difficult to know Lilly’s intentions with Protomer’s technology in regard to T1D. In a statement, a representative was noncommittal about the future of the glucose sensing insulin platform, saying, “We are excited to research and develop Protomer’s platform to further understand how it may help people living with diabetes, but we have significant work ahead of us to fully understand how, and whether, the technology will apply to people who use insulin.”

In our view, it is exciting that Eli Lilly, a company with deep roots in diabetes care – and deep pockets – is investing in a company with potential to deliver a T1D Practical Cure. We hope they maintain focus on T1D and quickly move the platform into human trials.