Gelesis, With Obesity Drug That Swells Up in Stomach, Helps Rats Eat Less

10/11/10Follow @xconomy

One of the more offbeat ideas in the obesity drug development business has gathered some new evidence to suggest it might someday help people lose weight.

Boston-based Gelesis, the developer of a superabsorbent capsule designed to swell up in the stomach and make people feel full, said its treatment was able to help rats reduce their food intake over an 18-hour period when compared to a placebo. The findings were presented over the weekend at The Obesity Society’s annual meeting in San Diego.

It’s way too early to say the Gelesis treatment will work in people, particularly since many other weight loss drugs have been tripped up by safety concerns. But the news of the long-lasting effect in rats is interesting in part because it comes about six months after Gelesis reported on a more rigorous clinical trial of 95 patients. This other study showed the capsules helped people feel full after meals and less hungry in between. The company is betting that, taken together, these early signs—controlling hunger in people, and reducing food intake in rats—will prove to be important leading indicators that the drug will ultimately help people lose a meaningful amount of weight. If proven in future trials, the Gelesis capsule could someday become a new option for the estimated two-thirds of people in the U.S. who are overweight or obese.

“We are definitely looking at further clinical trials that will build on this data,” said Eric Elenko, a partner at Puretech Ventures, and a co-founder and a director of Gelesis. “The rat data is particularly promising.”

Part of what has Gelesis’ scientists excited about the rat study is the 18-hour effect on food intake. It wasn’t a given that the Gelesis capsule, called Attiva, would last that long. The treatment, a superabsorbent polymer about the size of a grain of sugar, is made to work unlike any other treatment available today.

As I described in a feature story back in April, the Gelesis capsule is taken with a drink of water. It is then supposed to swell up more than 100-fold in volume when in contact with the water. When all those superabsorbent particles get released in the stomach, people naturally have less room for food.

Besides that, the particles put pressure … Next Page »

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  • xoom

    Any updates on this product?

    I’m trying to understand how a product of this nature is taking so long to reach market? It’s NOT absorbed into the bloodstream; therefore, it can’t be considered a pharmaceutical product. It’s mechanical in nature, so it can’t be governed by the same, strict, FDA regulations that apply to systemic drugs like Qnexa, and it’s certainly not the first product of its kind. Appesat expands in the stomach (albeit poorly) and it’s available today. The precedent for this series of products is set, so why is Gelesis f**king the dog?