Novo Nordisk has announced a collaborative effort with Harvard University and the Broad Institute of MIT to embark on a three-year initiative focused on addressing diabetes and cardiac fibrosis. This partnership builds upon a previous collaboration in 2021 when Novo Nordisk provided $47.5 million through its foundation to establish the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Genomic Mechanisms of Disease. The center’s primary goal was to delve into genetic data to gain insights into how genetic variations contribute to conditions like diabetes.
The latest endeavor aims to uncover potential drug targets for specific subtypes of Type 2 diabetes and unravel the genetic underpinnings of cardiac fibrosis, a condition characterized by scarring of the heart. Novo Nordisk, renowned for its blockbuster drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy, is a significant player in the field of diabetes management and treatment.
Regarding diabetes, one of the programs will investigate insulin resistance that isn’t related to a patient’s weight, while another will focus on addressing the loss of beta cell function. The overarching objective is to move beyond the conventional approach of managing diabetes symptoms, such as elevated blood sugar levels, and instead tackle the root causes of the disease. Broad Institute researcher Jose Florez, M.D., Ph.D., who will co-direct these programs, emphasized the importance of finding solutions that could potentially reverse diabetes, rather than simply managing its symptoms.
“With its leading universities and hospitals, Boston is renowned as an international epicenter for biomedical research and innovation—and the Broad Institute has earned a reputation of being a key nexus in this rich ecosystem. By establishing this new center with the Broad Institute we seek to help drive global research in health for the benefit of many.”
– Niels-Henrik von-Holstein-Rathlou, senior vice president, biomedicine and health sciences, the Novo Nordisk Foundation
In the realm of cardiac fibrosis, the collaborative effort will leverage machine learning and genomics to explore the connections between this condition and heart disease. Cardiac fibrosis is characterized by the accumulation of scar tissue in the heart, which can impair proper heart muscle function and lead to various complications. While it can be a consequence of a heart attack, it can also be associated with diabetes or have no clear causal factors. Currently, there is no cure for cardiac fibrosis, and existing treatments like beta blockers and ACE inhibitors primarily aim to improve heart pumping efficiency. The new program’s goal is to identify specific genes that could be targeted to potentially inhibit or even reverse this condition.
“Starting with our roots in the Human Genome Project, the Broad community has long believed that international collaboration is critical to advancing our knowledge of human disease and getting benefits more quickly to patients. The Center for Genomic Mechanisms of Disease is a natural extension of our deep commitment to global collaborations but also our pursuit of foundational research.”
– Todd Golub, director of the Broad Institute
This collaboration represents a promising step towards advancing our understanding of these challenging medical conditions and developing innovative treatments that could bring about significant changes in the way we approach and manage diabetes and cardiac fibrosis.