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Agreement Could Speed Clinical Trials of Anti-Obesity Agent
Sister Patricia Grasso, CSJ, (Sister John Damien) associate professor of medicine at Albany Medical College, is the head of a team of researchers who have been working since 1997 on creating an anti-obesity peptide that would also be effective in treating Type 2 diabetes. Today, October 8, 2009, Albany Medical College and Aegis Therapeutics signed an agreement that will allow the beginning of human trials. Albany Medical College and Aegis sent out today the following worldwide press release. Congratulations, Sister Patricia!
ALBANY, NEW YORK, October 8, 2009
The Albany Medical College and Aegis Therapeutics have announced an agreement designed to speed the development and commercialization of an anti-obesity peptide that could also benefit those with Type 2 diabetes.
Specifically, the agreement announced today authorizes Aegis to develop a partnership with a pharmaceutical company with the goal of beginning clinical trials in humans of the Albany Med-discovered OB-3 peptide. If successful, the trials could result in this new drug becoming commercially available to potentially benefit millions of overweight individuals as well as many others who are struggling with diabetes.
"This is an exciting development in our more than two decade-long research with hormone-related peptides and, more specifically, with leptin, a hormone that plays a major role in how the body regulates food intake and body weight," said Patricia Grasso, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine. "Through a series of studies in mice and rats, we have developed a synthetic fragment of leptin that decreases appetite and increases metabolism, resulting in significant weight loss and lower blood glucose levels in animal models. Now we hope to demonstrate that the OB-3 peptide can be similarly effective in humans."
In 1997, a team of Albany Medical College researchers headed by Dr. Grasso first isolated a very small fragment of leptin, which experiments revealed was responsible for curbing appetite and increasing metabolism in animal models. The team injected genetically obese, leptin-deficient mice with the OB-3 peptide and they began losing weight. Subsequent studies showed that the effectiveness of the OB-3 peptide was increased by administering it to the animals as nose drops, as opposed to needle injections into their peritoneal cavities. In fact, these studies showed that the amount of OB-3 entering the blood stream of the mice was four times greater when the agent was administered nasally. The latest study, soon to be published, suggests that an even more efficacious approach results when the OB-3 peptide is administered orally. All of these studies suggest that the OB-3 peptide might play a role in not only helping obese humans to regulate their body weight, but also in assisting Type 2 diabetics to better control their blood glucose level.
"Peptide drugs are particularly exciting for chronic disease applications because they metabolize to natural amino acids and thus are intrinsically devoid of the chemical toxicity issues that have plagued many of the earlier anti-obesity and anti-diabetic drugs," said Edward T. Maggio, M.D., CEO of Aegis Therapeutics. "The combination of Albany Medical College's highly effective peptide with Aegis' non-invasive Intravail peptide delivery technology promises to lead to the first orally-active peptide anti-obesity and diabetes drug."
Much of Dr. Grasso's research has been funded by the estate of Willard B. Warring, M.D., a surgeon who had strong ties to Albany Med and an intense interest in endocrinology.
Albany Medical College, one of the nation's oldest medical schools, is part of the Albany Medical Center, which also includes Albany Medical Center Hospital, one of upstate New York's largest teaching hospitals, and the Albany Medical Center Foundation, Inc., one of the Capital Region's most active fundraising organizations.
Aegis Therapeutics commercializes its patented drug and drug formulation technologies through product specific licenses. The company's Intravail technology enables the non-invasive delivery of a broad range of protein, peptide and non-peptide macromolecular therapeutics that can currently only be administered by injection with high bioavailability.
Sister Patricia, who has been a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for 48 years, received a doctorate in anatomy from Georgetown University School of Medicine and has been on the faculty of Albany Medical College since 1986.