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Therapeutics & Diagnostics 17-047

Novel biomarker for assessment of metformin efficacy

Representative image of crystal structure of growth differentiation factor 15.

Tech ID



Sibylle Hess
Thorsten Sadowski
Hertzel Gerstein
Guillaume Pare
Gregory Steinberg

Patent Status

National filings active

Development Status

Proof of concept available


Sunita Asrani
Associate Director, Business Development and Copyright


Metformin is currently the most widely used glucose lowering agent in the world [1]. It is being used since 1957 to treat type 2 diabetes however, no reliable biomarker for metformin’s presence or dose has been identified thus far [2]. This limits the ability to assess the effects of metformin in people with normal glucose homeostasis. Furthermore, at present, it takes months to determine efficacy of metformin in the treatment of cardiovascular disease [1].

Researchers at McMaster University in partnership with Sanofi have discovered a novel biomarker for the assessment of the treatment efficacy of metformin. Higher growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) protein concentration predicted a higher metformin dose in patient serum samples with statistical significance [1]. An increased level of GDF15 is indicative of a response of the patient to metformin administration.


  • Useful as a biomarker for metformin’s effect in mechanistic studies.
  • Suggests possible mechanisms for how metformin may reduce cardiovascular disease.
  • Aids in understanding the causes of cardiovascular disease.


  • Fast and less arduous than current assays that correspond with metformin’s dose.
  1. Hertzel C. Gerstein, Guillaume Pare, Sibylle Hess, Rebecca J. Ford, Jennifer Sjaarda, Kripa Raman, Matthew McQueen, ShunFu Lee, Heinz Haenel, Gregory R. Steinberg; for the ORIGIN Investigators, Growth Differentiation Factor 15 as a Novel Biomarker for Metformin. Diabetes Care 1 February 2017; 40 (2): 280–283.
  2. Nasri, H., & Rafieian-Kopaei, M. (2014). Metformin: Current knowledge. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 19(7), 658–664.

Image obtained from:

Hamilton Health Sciences, St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and McMaster University logos.