Having highlighted Syncria as one of its most promising compounds earlier this month, GlaxoSmithKline has provided details of the late-stage trial it has begun into the new type 2 diabetes drug.

The UK major said that the dosing of the first patient has taken place in the Phase III programme to evaluate Suncria (albiglutide), which is a glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist. The studies will include more than 4,000 patients.

Specifically, the Phase III programme for albiglutide will begin with five studies in early 2009 that will look to demonstrate its “durable efficacy and cardiovascular safety” as mono- and add-on therapy, GSK noted. A majority of the studies will include active comparators, including metformin, sulphonylurea, thiazolidinedione, insulin and a dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor. The programme will last for two to three years and the main dose will be 30mg weekly.

“Despite continued advances in diabetes treatment, this devastating disease continues to increase at an alarming pace worldwide,” said Carlo Russo, senior vice president of Biopharm Development at GSK.”It is clear that new therapies are needed to better control type 2 diabetes,” he added.

However even if good progress is made, Syncria will be entering the competitive GLP-1 market behind Amylin/Eli Lilly's Byetta (exenatide), while Novo Nordisk is confident of getting approval for its investigational GLP-1 agonist liraglutide in the near future. Roche is also developing a drug in this class, called taspoglutide, which is already in Phase III.

The move into Phase III for Syncria is also good news for Human Genome Sciences, which created the biologic. Albiglutide is generated from the genetic fusion of human albumin and modified human GLP-1 peptide.

The announcement has triggered a payment of $9 million to HGS which licensed the drug to GSK in 2004. The US firm could get up to $183 million, including $24 million received to date, in addition to single-digit royalties on sales if Syncria is commercialised.