Diamyd diabetes vax, once spurned by J&J, gets an EU boost

There's a big patient pool waiting out there for any diabetes vaccine maker that can bring a product to market, but so far, it's been a rocky road. Diamyd Medical is among the companies that have seen their share of setbacks. But after a Phase III stumble back in 2011, the EU is putting forth some cash to test its vaccine in an ongoing combination study.

Diamyd Chairman Anders Essen-Möller

The EU has awarded a €120,000 grant to propel a study evaluating whether vitamin D and ibuprofen help Diamyd's vaccine preserve the insulin-producing capacity in children newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Diamyd expects the first results from the study to be presented in early 2015, it said.

Linköping University professor Johnny Ludvigsson, the study's lead investigator and sponsor, called the support "truly encouraging," while Anders Essen-Möller, Diamyd's chairman, said the combination program is "of interest to both researchers and the industry."

But Diamyd's vaccine didn't start out as part of a cocktail. It made it to Phase III on its own before missing statistical significance in a 2011 trial, prompting then-partner Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) to hand back a stake in the vaccine it had purchased the year prior. Other competing firms also reported less-than-stellar results in Phase III trials between 2010 and 2012, Diamyd said, prompting it to look into combos.

Last year saw a couple of earlier-stage successes, however. In June, researchers from California's Stanford University and The Netherlands' Leiden University Medical Center reported that 12 weekly shots of a DNA vaccine helped preserve some of the remaining insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas without causing serious side effects. And in October, a Finish team reported that after identifying 5 viral strains that could cause diabetes, it had developed a vaccine that proved effective in mice.

- read Diamyd's release