It's a truism in the diabetes world that not much has changed in the treatment of the disease since the development of sulfonylureas, which stimulate insulin output, and insulin. There haven't been any major therapeutic advances in 30 years, and there are no drugs that treat the causes of the disease. In fact, most diabetes drugs are generic products.

Yet the disease is a major cause of mortality and morbidity. More than $100 billion is spent annually in the U.S. on medical care for diabetics - about 13 percent of U.S. health care expenditures. The disease is the leading cause of blindness and amputations in the U.S.; it is a major cause of kidney and cardiovascular disease; and the life expectancy of diabetics at diagnosis is 50-70 percent that of a normal individual.