Our recent Diabetes Innovation Challenge, the first-ever, open, worldwide challenge to identify and accelerate transformational advancements in diabetes research and care, awarded Enable Biosciences the top prize in late stage development. This is the second article in our three-part series of winner profiles.
An early diagnosis is one of the most important tools available to manage type 1 diabetes (T1D). Addressing this need is the first place winner in the late-stage projects of the 2016 Diabetes Innovation Challenges, Enable Biosciences of San Francisco, CA. This organization offers an interesting diagnostic test that is 10,000 times more sensitive than today’s auto-antibody testing used in screening people (such as family members of a person with type 1) for likeliness of developing type 1 diabetes. We interviewed Dr. David Seftel, CEO from Enable Biosciences.
Glu: What motivates/inspires the individuals in your organization?
David: Our team is united in the pursuit of truly transformative tools that have the power to improve the lives of the greatest many. As a clinician, my type 1 patients motivate, educate and challenge me to deliver solutions that can change their lives and those of their families for the better. We will not rest until we deliver a diagnostic platform that empowers patients and physicians to intervene early to improve outcomes dramatically.
Glu: What has been the greatest challenge to move to the next stage?
David: Early diagnosis is the single most important factor in forestalling total islet cell destruction. T1D is a window of opportunity disease. Most type 1 patients present too late with full blown disease and thus miss this window due to the lack of easy, ultra-sensitive antibody detection assays. While our assay promises to address this issue definitively, the most critical challenge is enrolling clinical collaborators and partners to help test at-risk populations early and often. We are extremely grateful to the T1D Exchange for developing an extraordinary network of individuals and organizations that can help us bring this much needed resource to the aid of researchers, clinicians and patients alike.
Glu: How will your organization use the funding and services provided by the award?
David: Funding will go towards larger trials of our technology and pave the way for regulatory approval. We will make extensive use of T1D Exchange biobanked samples for this purpose, as well as consulting services to help us optimize the manufacturing of our product to meet the needs of researchers and clinicians alike.
Glu: How soon might this solution be available?
David: Between 1-2 years. We are still in a “pre-clinical” phase, but we are also working hard to identify partners to help us accelerate the delivery of our diagnostic from the lab to the clinic.
Glu: Once this innovation has gone to market, what area(s) will you focus on?
David: Maintaining the quality of the current auto-antibody tests, advancing our next-generation tests that will be even more powerful and less invasive. Working with scientists to identify new markers and to help develop better therapies for T1D patients.
Glu: Any other interesting background information (perhaps non-scientific) about your team?
David: I am originally from South Africa where my physician father had his own very popular medical TV show. I have maintained my connection to South Africa and been involved in charitable work there for many years. In the US, I co-founded the Macular Degeneration Foundation, a non-profit that blazed the trail in patient advocacy and research promotion in the field of macular degeneration. Peter Robinson, PhD, Enables’ Chief Scientific Officer, is a member of a nationally-touring Improv Comedy troupe. Jason Tsai, Enable’s CTO, won the 2008 Gold Medal in the International Chemistry Olympiad, representing Taiwan. Carolyn Bertozzi, PhD, Enable’s Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board, played keyboard in a rock band with Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) when they were in college at Harvard.