Treatment: Technosphere Insulin System
Maker: MannKind
Stage: Phase III, hopes to apply for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval by the end of 2008.

Why It Matters

Insulin therapy for diabetes usually involves several injections a day. People dislike injecting themselves, so many fail to stick to their treatment regimens.

How It Works

MannKind's inhalant system delivers inhalable spongy microparticles coated with insulin. Whereas regular human insulin and the kind used for shots tend to form into clusters of six insulin molecules, MannKind uses individualized insulin molecules. According to MannKind chief scientific officer Peter Richardson, individual molecules of insulin act faster, mimicking the natural spike in insulin levels that happens during a meal.

As a result, MannKind's system smooths out the high and low blood sugar levels that conventional, slower acting treatments cannot eliminate. Faster delivery of insulin means that post-meal high blood glucose levels and subsequent between-meal hypoglycemia, or abnormally low glucose levels, are greatly reduced. In clinical trials, MannKind's treatment has not given rise to the weight gain often seen with other insulin therapies, perhaps because diabetics do not need to snack between meals to avoid hypoglycemia, Richardson says. "We even saw weight loss, which is unheard of with insulin."

Return to Special Report: 10 Promising Treatments for World's Biggest Health Threats