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Richard DiMarchi is CICP's Innovator of the Year


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership has named Indiana University Bloomington Chemistry Chair Richard DiMarchi its 2005 Innovator of the Year, an honor intended to recognize Indiana University scientists who have successfully transformed promising technologies into marketable products.

DIMARCHI IMAGE

Richard DiMarchi (behind the podium) is chair of the IU Bloomington Department of Chemistry

Print-Quality Photo

DiMarchi's latest invention is an synthetic analog of the human hormone glucagon. Natural glucagon induces the body's liver to release sugar into the bloodstream. Most insulin-taking diabetics have abnormally low glucagon levels, and are unable to respond to blood sugar, which places them at risk of life-threatening hypoglycemia. DiMarchi's glucagon analog possesses similar biological properties as natural glucagon. Unlike natural glucagon, however, this glucagon analog has much improved physical and chemical properties. It dissolves easily and maintains its structural integrity over extended periods at room temperature. DiMarchi and colleagues envision a synthetic glucagon analog that is formulated for portable and immediate use in a pen-sized injector similar to those commonly used for insulin administration.

Why invent such a thing?

Natural glucagon has poor solubility in water; it's sold as a powder. To create a solution suitable for injection, the natural glucagon must first be dissolved in dilute acid, then added to a syringe. Diabetics who experience critically low blood sugar are not always accompanied by friends and family who know what to do when diabetic shock occurs. Furthermore, diabetics who experience hypoglycemic shock lose a sizeable degree of consciousness, rendering them less able to administer a medicine of appreciable complexity. during an episode of shock do not always have total control over their bodies. A pen injector containing a ready-to-use glucagon would increase availability of the drug, speed drug delivery by eliminating the preparation step, and render it far easier to manipulate under circumstances of duress.

DiMarchi is co-founding a new company, PhySci Pharmaceuticals, with August Watanabe and CEO Fritz French, to develop the glucagon analog for registration as a human medicine. PhySci is headquartered in Carmel, Ind., with discovery research continuing in Bloomington. Drug development will occur at a collection of international academic and contract research labs. PhySci will collaborate with researchers from around the world to complete the product. PhySci is the recent recipient of a $2 million 21st Century Research and Technology Award from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to help fund the product's development.

DiMarchi is the third recipient of the CICP Innovator of the Year Award, which entails a trophy, and a $5,000 award. Past awardees are IU School of Medicine's Roger Roeske (2004) and Richard G. Peterson (2003). The award is presented by the Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation and is made possible by a grant to the IURTC from CICP.

The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership is a coalition of the CEOs of the region's largest employers and the presidents of its research universities (including IU President Adam W. Herbert). CICP seeks to transform our regional economy, focusing on strategies to encourage innovation and the development of high-wage, high-growth industry clusters like the life sciences, advanced manufacturing and distribution logistics. The Partnership regards the state's institutions of higher education as critical economic partners, as major sources of talent and scientific and technological breakthroughs; the Innovator of the Year award reflects this philosophy.

Biographical information for Richard D. Dimarchi, chair and professor, IU Bloomington Department of Chemistry

DiMarchi's research is focused on the discovery and development of protein-based drugs. These drugs are similar in form and function to naturally occurring proteins in the body, but possess certain pharmaceutical advantages that render them superior medicines. These advantages are often increased efficacy, safety, and convenience for patient use..

In Nov. 2005, the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists selected Indiana University Bloomington biochemist Richard DiMarchi, PhD for its 2005 Research Achievement Award in Biotechnology.

Dr. DiMarchi has devoted much of his research career to improving the quality of life for those with diabetes. He was a guiding force behind the "billion-dollar" insulin analog, Humalog (brand name). This was the first rDNA-derived protein analog structurally optimized for improved pharmaceutical performance. He also contributed at Eli Lilly & Co. to a number of other protein-based medicines, whose brand names are Humulin, Humatrope, rGlucagon, Xigris, and Forteo.

DiMarchi is a co-founder of Ambrx Pharmaceuticals and currently serves as its external chairman of the board. He is a member of a number of biotechnology scientific advisory boards and is a member of the board of directors for Isis Pharmaceuticals. His research is currently focused on the chemical optimization of peptide-based drugs with focus in the therapeutic area of endocrinology.

DiMarchi joined the IUB chemistry faculty in 2003. Prior to his arrival at IU, he was group vice president of biotechnology research at Lilly Research Laboratories, where he was employed for more than 20 years. DiMarchi recently assumed the chairmanship of IUB Chemistry following Dr. David Clemmer, PhD who returns to an enriched focus on his discovery research.

More information about DiMarchi's research may be found here:
http://info.chem.indiana.edu/sb/page/normal/761.html