Zafgen Pockets $33M To Take Obesity Drug Through Next Big Step in Clinical Trials

7/7/11Follow @arleneweintraub

Obesity drug developer Zafgen is announcing today that it has closed a $33 million Series C financing led by its existing investors, including Third Rock Ventures and Atlas Venture. This doubles the total amount of cash raised by the Cambridge, MA-based startup to $66 million.

Zafgen CEO Thomas Hughes says the company will use the proceeds to move its lead weight-loss drug candidate through Phase 2 clinical trials. In January, Zafgen announced that in an early-stage, one-month trial, its lead drug candidate helped patients lose 2.2 pounds a week. And on June 24, it said that in a Phase 1B trial, the drug produced significant improvements in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels—all important markers of cardiovascular risk that are typically elevated in people who are overweight.

Hughes says the company’s experimental drug—a methionine aminopeptidase 2 (MetAP2) inhibitor called ZGN-433— has exceeded expectations. “We’ve established a rate of weight loss that’s about two-to-four times what one sees in other investigational agents,” Hughes says. “And we see almost a complete normalization of cardiovascular risk.”

Zafgen is currently completing a second Phase 1b study and plans to begin the Phase 2 early next year. The company has also been reformulating the molecule, transforming it from an intravenous drug that has to be given in a medical facility to a “subcutaneous” form that patients could give themselves at home, in an injection just below the skin. Prior to starting the Phase 2, Hughes says, the company will complete a small trial to show the new formulation is as safe and effective as the old one.

The folks at Zafgen seem undeterred by the FDA’s recent rejections of obesity drugs. Mountain View, CA-based Vivus (NASDAQ: VVUS) and San Diego-based Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARNA) both failed to get their experimental obesity treatments cleared by the FDA. More recently, shares of San Diego-based Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OREX) plummeted after the FDA said it would need to see results from a study of long-term cardiovascular outcomes before it would consider approving the company’s combo treatment naltrexone and bupropion (Contrave).

Hughes says he’s kept a close ear to the ground during the FDA’s discussions about those drugs—even going so far as … Next Page »

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  • Saumitra

    Excellent positioning by Zafgen.If you exaggerate the claims by 1000X, it would be like if these people don’t take our drug they will die of Obesity. They learnt from Vivus / Orexigen debacle and best part being strategizing for REMS so ‘early’ in development stage. If they come up with some Pharmacoeconomics figures comparing their drug costs with that of Bariatric surgery and risk of patients reverting to their original lifestyle they would have a strong case of approval.

  • Zoom

    Very good news indeed.

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