The monolithic view of type 2 diabetes as a disease of insulin resistance alone has been shattered over recent years, with even staunch defenders of “Syndrome X” now acknowledging the need for ß-cell deficiency if nothing else at least as a contributing factor to the development of hyperglycemia. So why have the major American and European pharmaceutical industries with strong presence in diabetes, many of them with much larger resources than those of Servier, not initiated IGIS-like activities?
First, their diabetes researchers (as well as their external consultants) have been deeply committed to insulin resistance over decades, viewing the islet / insulin secretion field as “nonrelevant.”
Second, these companies are “big and heavy”: I am sure the same changes in the thinking of type 2 diabetes pathophysiology that we observe in the academic research world are occurring also among the researchers of these companies; however, every sailor knows that you do not change the course of a huge tanker easily!
There is always an element of chance in encounters and in convergence of interests, as well as of “common language.” But beyond these, Servier has been a leader in diabetes treatment based on enhancement of ß-cell function for a very long period, it has not been “captured” by the insulin-resistance current, and Servier has the optimal size, allowing the “human” element to dominate in discussions, rather than rigid principles. Furthermore and most important, Servier has long-since realized that an educative, scientific approach, to be effective, must be devoid of commercial, promotional elements. This has allowed the IGIS Board members to accept the challenge of IGIS without fear of interference from Servier, or from being labelled “Servier persons.” And the editors of neither Diabetes nor Diabetes Obesity & Metabolism would not have given their “imprimatur” to the publication of an industry-funded supplement without being convinced of the fact that scientific criteria, and only scientific criteria, were at the basis of the symposia and its proceedings. Note that all contributions are peer-reviewed.
Has there been any benefit for Servier through IGIS? Probably not in terms of direct financial benefit. However, knowledge of Servier among leading diabetes researchers, mainly from North America, has increased dramatically since the beginning of the Symposia and more so since the appearance of the supplements, and the prestige of Servier among those who did know it has undoubtedly augmented. In terms of prestige, it’s difficult to imagine a better method for a science based pharmaceutical industry. A large qualitative as well as quantitative step has been taken in the IGIS–Servier relationship since the appointment of Dr Alain Ktorza, a senior academic diabetes basic researcher with major contribution in the field of ß-cell biology, as Head of Diabetes and Metabolism Research. His participation in the planning of future symposia as Secretary of the IGIS Board brings a welcome scientific support to IGIS. Conversely, scientists from his team attend the meetings and interact with world leaders in various areas of importance for drug discovery at Servier.
Photo credits: IDRS Metabolism Diseases