Pioneering the use of gut hormones as natural appetite regulators

Pioneering the use of Oxyntomodulin as a natural appetite regulator

Quick fact

44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity. A Government report recently claimed that obesity will cost the NHS £6.4bn per year by 2015.

Key Imperial researchers

  • Professor Sir Steve Bloom
  • Professor Mohammad Ghatei
  • Dr Caroline Small
  • Dr Rachel Batterham

Professor Sir Bloom’s group at Imperial College has pioneered the use of gut hormones as natural appetite regulators. Research demonstrated that the gut hormone, oxyntomodulin, caused considerable weight loss in man.

Administration of oxyntomodulin in human volunteers resulted in weight loss of 0.5kg per week over four weeks, greater than for any other therapy with the advantage of having no side effects. The weight loss was due to oxyntomodulin's dual effect of reducing food intake and increasing energy expenditure, an effect not documented with other therapies. Oxyntomodulin was a novel and strong lead for development of an obesity therapy.

A problem of degradation

Oxyntomodulin is rapidly degraded and broken down by the body. Studies therefore focused on developing a long-acting oxyntomodulin analogue which became the drug TKS 1225. As a result of this research work a number of patents were filed and an Imperial College spin-out company Thiakis was founded in 2004.

In 2006, Thiakis undertook a venture capital funding round jointly led by leading life science venture capital groups, Novo A/S and Advent Venture partners and including the Royal Society. Thiakis used this £10 million investment to undertake toxicity testing of the drug TKS 1225 in animals and then undertook successful testing in man.

In 2008, Wyeth acquired Thiakis for $30 million cash with additional payments of $120 million payable upon the achievement of development milestones. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and the full legal agreement was subsequently acquired and developed by Pfizer in 2009.

The work performed at Imperial stimulated a new area of pharmaceutical research and development. International drug companies such as Merck, Novo Nordisk and Lilly have developed Oxyntomodulin research programmes following the success of Thiakis. These programmes demonstrate the commercial adoption of the new technology of obesity analogue originally pre-formed at Imperial College.

For further detailed information, please see the full impact case study at Creation of Thiakis Ltd and Profitable Sale to Wyeth Ltd (PDF).