Emma Parmee will receive the 2009 SCI Gordon E Moore Medal for playing a key role in the discovery of the dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP-4) inhibitor JANUVIA TM (sitagliptin), the first and only DPP-4 inhibitor approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Diabetes is a global epidemic affecting more than 240 million people worldwide. The incidence of this disease is growing at an alarming rate, with 380 million cases predicted by 2025. Each year over 3.8 million people die from complications of diabetes, including heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. The vast majority (90 - 95%) of cases are Type 2 diabetes, largely resulting from the increasing prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles.
Despite the availability of a range of agents to treat Type 2 diabetes, glucose control remains suboptimal, with less than 50% of patients achieving stated glycemic goals. In addition, current therapies have limited durability and/or are associated with significant side effects such GI intolerance, hypoglycemia, weight gain, lactic acidosis and oedema. Thus, significant unmet medical needs remain. In particular, safer, better tolerated medications which provide increased efficacy and long term durability are being sought.
Dr Parmee and her colleagues' discovery of the selective DPP-4 inhibitor JANUVIATM represents a major advance in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. JANUVIATM provides glucose lowering efficacy as monotherapy and in combination with metformin and PPARγ agonists such as pioglitazone. Because of its unique glucose-dependent mechanism of action, there is very low risk of hypoglycemia. Overall side-effects are comparable to placebo, and unlike many other anti-hyperglycemic agents, JANUVIATM does not cause weight gain. In addition DPP-4 inhibition is associated with improvements in ß cell function, which may lead to increased long-term effectiveness. In October 2006, JANUVIATM was approved in the U.S. as the first and only DPP-4 inhibitor for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
Parmee joined Merck following a stellar graduate career at Oxford and a NATO post-doctoral fellowship at MIT. She has been an author or co-author 30 papers in refereed journals and is a co-inventor on 24 issued and pending patent applications. First-rate medicinal chemistry skills and leadership ability have made Dr Parmee a well respected and sought out collaborator in the Merck research community, and her talents are also known in the world-wide research community.