Roche is putting its investigational diabetes compound aleglitizar into late-stage trials after the drug showed promise in a Phase II study.

Data presented at the American Diabetes Association meeting in New Orleans showed that R1439 (aleglitazar), which is a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) co-agonist, demonstrated benefits compared with both placebo and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co’s blockbuster Actos (pioglitazone). The findings from the 332-patient Phase II Synchrony study also demonstrated that the drug appeared to be safe and well-tolerated.

The Basel-headquartered group is now putting aleglitazar into Phase III trials as a treatment designed to lower cardiovascular risk in diabetes patients with recent heart attack. Jean-Jacques Garaud, head of development at Roche’s pharma division, said the firm is confident that aleglitazar “has the potential to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in this high-risk patient group and is therefore committed to pursuing its rapid development”.

Roche is hoping that the "unique cardio-metabolic profile" of aleglitazar will give the compound an advantage over drugs such as Actos and GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia (rosiglitazone) which have been linked with an increased risk of heart disease

Israel investment
Meantime, Roche has signed an agreement with venture capital firm Pontifax to invest in biotechnology companies based in Israel.

The plan is for Pontifax to identify Israeli firms that represent potential collaborative partners for the Swiss company which will then assess the attractiveness of these investment opportunities. The VC’s chief executive Tomer Karive said that “combining Roche’s expertise and immense resources with our local, hands-on management oversight presents a unique opportunity for the Israeli bio-pharma start-ups to go global”.