Life Health

Readers respond to insulin pill discovery

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones.

By Dr. W. Gifford-Jones, Special to Postmedia Network

Recently in a column I confessed to buying the penny stock of Eastgate Biotech Corp.

After writing about Type 2 diabetes for 50 years, I was interested to see what would happen to the company's momentous discovery, an oral insulin pill, instead of injections, to treat diabetes. Eastgate needs $10 million for a final study to satisfy Health Canada. I believed Sir Frederick Banting, who discovered insulin at the University of Toronto in 1922, would roll over in his grave as the company struggled to find financing. So, how did readers respond?

R.F. from Toronto says, "It's tragic that this company has to seek funds from U.S. venture capitalists. Banting would wonder why the U of T which has spent hundreds of millions on research facilities would allow this to happen. Besides, a $10 million investment would generate immense royalty profits in view of the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes."

J.D. writes from Alberta, "Considering that Banting, a Canadian researcher, received the Nobel Prize for this discovery, I'm dismayed the U of T does not lend its support. It's due to a lack of foresight and inherent bureaucracy at our research facilities. It's time to step up and lead instead of being lead."

R.K. from Ontario says, "This response doesn't surprise me. Canadian biotech companies have difficulty raising capital, as the government and investment community favour American companies".

J.C. responds, "I enjoy your articles. In the future it will make economic sense for governments to sponsor the best and cost-saving therapeutics. If an insulin pill can save a billion in treating diabetes why not promote it? If a penny of prevention is worth a pound of cure, why not do it?"

D.S. writes from Vancouver, "Thank you for keeping us aware in your column of what should be headline news. The article about the insulin pill should be supported by Health Canada or in this case the University of Toronto to honour the legacy of Sir Frederick Banting. Today, in North America, a new case of Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed every 30 seconds. If a new case of the Zika or Sars virus was inflicting people at this rate, millions would be spent to find a solution."

Several readers asked me if I had approached the University of Toronto Medical School to support this research. Yes, I did contact it, and urged it to do so.

The university responded that it appreciated that The Gifford-Jones Foundation had established the W. Gifford-Jones Professorship in Pain Control and Palliative Care at the medical school several years ago. And, although it would be great to honour Dr. Banting, its fundraising priorities are focused on students and faculty members.

I found this an unfortunate reply. As a graduate of The Harvard Medical School, I know its greatness is partly due to its huge endowment from fundraising. This means it has the money to attract renowned professors, researchers and build medical facilities second to none. All its research and support of new medical discoveries eventually benefit students and faculty.

Never did I realize that my purchase of penny shares in a small but forward-looking research facility would result in this eye-opening experience. I remain optimistic that funds will no doubt eventually be found for the insulin pill. The royalties from this discovery will also make a university or entrepreneur very wealthy. But for diabetes patients to be relieved of regular insulin injections, it would be a great blessing.

I also hope my penny shares will, in time, enable me to further fund pain control and palliative care sorely lacking in this country. Too many people die in needles pain, many of them diabetics.

In the earlier column, I said I wished I was a Rockefeller. I have not changed my mind. It would make my life simpler. There would be no need to be concerned about what universities or fundraisers think. I'd pick up the telephone and say to Eastgate, "Here is the money. Keep Dr. Banting's legacy in Canada." End of discussion.

Dr. Ken Walker (Gifford-Jones) is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the Harvard Medical School. He trained in general surgery at the Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester, Montreal General Hospital, McGill University and in gynecology at Harvard. His column is published by 70 Canadian newspapers, as well as internationally. For more information, visit docgiff.com or email info@docgiff.com.



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