MannKind bets the farm on inhaled insulin

Pfizer's huge investment in the inhaled insulin drug Exubera turned into a major disappointment when the drug did only $12 million in sales, causing Pfizer to promptly abandon the drug. But despite that monumental flop, billionaire Alfred E. Mann (photo), CEO and controlling shareholder of California-based MannKind, is confident that his company's inhaled insulin product has what it takes to revolutionize diabetes treatment--and he's putting up is own money to prove it.

Mann says that Technosphere is more effective and faster acting than currently available therapies. The device used to deliver the drug (photo) is much smaller than the Exubera inhaler (photo), which many people found to be bulky and inconvenient. The drug is also faster-acting than any other insulin on the market, and may reduce the risk of low blood glucose levels in diabetic patients.

Skeptics say Mann has an uphill battle ahead of him. Potential competitors in the inhaled insulin space include Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, which are both conducting late-stage trials for their drugs. There is concern that Technosphere is too short-acting. Additionally, in trials, more patients on Technosphere chose to discontinue treatment--the reasons why are unclear. But Mann has unshakable faith in the drug and is betting a whole lot of money that he's right. "I believe this is one of the most valuable products in history in the drug industry, and I'm willing to back it up with my estate," he told The New York Times.

- read this NYT article for more