Dr. Hans Sollinger.

A gene therapy drug that could end up being a cure for diabetes is being tested on dogs at the Boone Veterinary Hospital in central Iowa and canine volunteers are needed for a second-round study.

Doctor Hans Sollinger, the founder of the Wisconsin-based biotech company Endsulin, says diabetic dogs will receive a 30-minute intravenous treatment during their first visit, which may last a total of four hours.

“We want to take a few hours to make sure that the dog is fine,” Sollinger says. “The dog can go to the playground with the owner, making sure the veterinarian or the vet technician is close, just in case there should be an unexpected reaction to the treatment.”

The treatment has proven effective in hundreds of small animals to reduce or even eliminate insulin injections, Sollinger says, and if all goes well with the dog study, human trials may be 18 to 24 months away. The gene therapy is very similar to what’s being used to treat dogs for hemophilia, a blood clotting disorder.

“The DNA which we are giving for the cure of diabetes is just a very small amount different than what the hemophilia dogs are getting,” Sollinger says. “The hemophilia dogs have no side effects or very small side effects, and certainly, to my knowledge, there hasn’t been a death.”

Built on decades of research at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics in Madison, Sollinger says the procedure may allow patients to precisely regulate insulin on their own by re-coding a small fraction of their liver to function like a pancreas.

“I’m sure we’ll get it to work, it will take time,” Sollinger says. “From other examples of gene therapy where dogs have been used as a model, if you get it to work in dogs, the chance we will get it to work in humans is excellent.” The ideal dogs for the study are small dogs that have been recently diagnosed with diabetes.

Families must be able to bring their pet to Boone for the one-time treatment and five follow-up visits. Learn more about the study at endsulin.com/pilot-study or contact ENDSULIN directly at [email protected].