Professor Liz Topp and student team creating Epipen equivalent for diabetics

Still shot from TV segment


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - November kicks of Diabetes awareness month. One Purdue professor and a team of students is looking to make an impact on the disease by creating an Epipen equivalent for people with Diabetes.

Liz Topp is a professor in the Department of Industrial and Physical Pharmacy at the university.


She said she was inspired to tackle this problem after hearing a story from her brother, who is a high school principal.

He has a student with Diabetes who plays volleyball. Everytime she goes to a match, the school has to send a nurse and a glucagon kit in case the student’s blood sugar gets too low.

Glucagon is a hormone that is used to raise blood sugar levels in the human body.

“Mary-Emma is in my mind when we are doing this,” said Topp. “I’d like her to have this Epipen equivalent with her so that her coach or her teammates could just give her a shot of this stuff without a whole lot of mixing.”

Mixing is the step that Topp wants to eliminate. With current glucagon kits, one has to mix a wet solution with the dried glucagon in a vile, properly get it into a syringe, and then know how and where to properly administer it in the muscle or under the skin.

Topp said in the heat of the moment when a diabetic's blood sugar is dropping, doing this process can be stressful and has room for error.

So that is where this new invention comes in, except there was a problem Topp and her team faced: you can’t premix the dried glucagon with the solution that come in these kits because it’s life-saving qualities go bad in a matter of hours.

So Topp and her team created glucagon’s “little brother” called phospho-glucagon. And by phosphorylating glucagon, they are now able to increase the shelf-life of the mixture by as much as 30 days.

Making it a much more practical option for someone with Diabetes to carry with them and use if a situation arises.

This invention will help primarily those with Type 1 Diabetes, but Topp is optimistic that it can help those who suffer from Type 2 Diabetes in the future.

Topp said she has been blessed with a team of dedicated students who have come from all over the world: India, Germany, and Iran are just a few.

She said it was actually a student who was studying how the cells were forming in the glucagon mixture and came up with the idea for the phosph-glucagon.

She said the goal is to give Diabetic patients the independence to treat themselves when they need it.

“A thing that really will, I hope benefit mankind,” she said. “Especially Diabetic patients and their families. That this can make life better for them. And my brother got super excited about it, the high school principal when I told him.”

She said the “P” in phospho-glucagon has two special meanings to her.

“The P stands for Purdue and also phospho-glucagon,” she said with a laugh. “I can’t wait to see Purdue’s Phospho-glucagons really make a splash and help patients.”

Now the team is working with the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization to get the product commercialized in the near future. Topp said she hopes a large pharmaceutical company, such as Eli Lilly, will take notice of the new product.

News Date: 
Friday, November 2, 2018

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