Lilly diabetes executive becomes CMO at MannKind

MannKind, which continues to try to convince the market of the value of its inhaled insulin, has enticed a top scientific executive away from Eli Lilly as it explores new areas for the fast-acting drug.

The Westlake Village, California-based company Tuesday announced that David Kendall, M.D., has joined as MannKind’s chief medical officer. Beginning next week, he takes on responsibility for leading MannKind’s scientific research, clinical development, regulatory, and medical affairs activity.

“David is a world-renowned diabetes expert and represents an important addition to our executive leadership team,” MannKind CEO Michael Castagna said in a statement. “His extensive experience in diabetes research, development and clinical care in both U.S. and international markets will be instrumental in helping us achieve the growth potential that we believe Afrezza clearly possesses.”

Kendall most recently was the research physician and vice president of global medical affairs for Lilly Diabetes. A Lilly spokesman said: "We’re thankful for everything David did during his seven years at Lilly, and we wish him the best in his new role."

Kendall takes the spot vacated in September by Raymond W. Urbanski, M.D., who left MannKind to work in oncology. Kendall said he was excited to join the small company. 

“The research and clinical response to Afrezza as a mealtime insulin supports ongoing efforts to establish this product as the standard of care for those living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes,” Kendall said in the statement.

RELATED: MannKind plots trial pairing inhaled insulin Afrezza with One Drop's digital diabetes manager

Among those efforts is one announced last year in which Afrezza is being trialed alongside a digital diabetes management platform from One Drop. The A-One study will randomize qualified people with Type 2 diabetes into two treatment groups. One group will use the One Drop platform alone, while the other will use Afrezza along with One Drop. The One Drop program includes its mobile app, an expert coaching service and its Bluetooth custom glucose monitoring meter called Chrome, along with test strips.

RELATED: Sanofi and MannKind terminate Afrezza partnership

MannKind has struggled to establish its inhaled insulin as an alternative to injected or oral products. Afrezza was approved in 2014 and shortly after MannKind struck a marketing deal with Sanofi for its launch. Sanofi's own research had indicated that many patients with diabetes avoid taking their insulin because they don't want to do injections, and the inhaled mealtime insulin Afrezza seemed like a good bet. But the French drugmaker bailed on the deal after about a year of tepid sales.

MannKind, which has been solo since, is hoping to update Afrezza's label with claims that could help it stand out in the competitive fast-acting insulin category—for instance, that it works faster and leaves the body more quickly.

The company, which has yet to report fourth-quarter 2017 results, lost about $84.5 million on about $4.7 million in sales in the first nine months of 2017.