BioWorld International Correspondent
PARIS - ObeTherapy Biotechnology and Zambon Group SpA entered a research collaboration to discover and develop low-molecular-weight compounds for metabolic disorders, such as lipidemia, metabolic syndrome and obesity.
The companies are to focus on a molecular target involved in intestinal lipid absorption, and said that approach offers advantages over marketed therapies. It acts at a peripheral level and, thus, is potentially devoid of systemic toxicity.
ObeTherapy, which is located in the incubator of the Genopole, France's national biotechnology science and business park at Evry, will draw on its knowledge in the management of metabolic disorders, supported by its in vitro testing platform.
For its part, Zambon, of Milan, Italy, will mobilize its pharmaceutical development expertise and is to organize all the preclinical and clinical testing of any drug from the collaboration. To that end, it will use its DOiT research center in Taverne, Switzerland, which includes a chemical library and automated screening systems and has extensive drug-optimization experience.
The financial terms were not disclosed, but ObeTherapy's CEO, Itzik Harosh, told BioWorld International that Zambon would finance the entire cost up to the end of preclinical development (during which ObeTherapy would receive milestones) and that clinical costs would be shared equally between the partners. Zambon would be responsible for commercializing any resulting product, with ObeTherapy receiving "decent royalties," Harosh said. He added that an initial drug candidate could enter clinical development within two to two-and-a-half years.
ObeTherapy focuses on metabolic disorders and is exploiting a new approach to obesity based on the genes activated in thin people, especially those affected by rare monogenic diseases characterized by a failure to absorb fat. Harosh says there are around 10 "thinness" genes and the company has isolated two in man.
The first is the target covered by the Zambon deal, while the second recently was validated for the same therapeutic applications. ObeTherapy intends to partner that target out, as well, but Harosh said ObeTherapy would wait until it had an optimized lead before negotiating a deal.
ObeTherapy had planned to raise up to €7 million once it established proof of concept for its therapeutic strategy, but Harosh said it changed its mind and "stopped looking because investors were not very enthusiastic." Instead, it entered the collaboration with Zambon, which would provide it with the funding it needed in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, ObeTherapy has received funding twice this year, doubling to about €1.4 million the total it has raised since it was founded in January 2000. At the beginning of 2004 it received €300,000 from the French National Research Promotion Agency, which was one of four public agencies to provide the company with its seed funding of €400,000 in 2000.
In April, its sole private-sector investor, iXCore, provided €400,000 of equity in the company. iXCore, which is based in the Paris suburb of Marly-le-Roi, is the investment company of an anonymous French business angel and invested €325,000 in ObeTherapy in November 2002.