LONDON ¿ Alizyme plc, of Cambridge, has selected a lead compound, ATL-962, a lipase inhibitor, for development as an obesity treatment. The compound has a similar mode of action to F. Hoffman-La Roche¿s Xenical (orlistat), and Alizyme says it is the only other company targeting lipase inhibition to inhibit fat digestion.

Richard Palmer, CEO, told BioWorld International that ATL-962 should enter the clinic in the first quarter of 2000. ¿We would do a deal now if it was right,¿ he said. ¿We have a tangible [compound] that is deliverable. We will get proof-of-concept in man in Phase I, within the next 12 to 15 months, and I don¿t intend to go beyond this.¿

While getting proof-of-concept would improve the value, Palmer observed, anything else ¿depends [upon] how hungry the market is to get hold of this compound. The obesity market is large, and lipase inhibition will be an important platform. During the past two to three years, there has been a growing awareness that obesity is a real disease, and the major pharmas will need products from outside to tap this market.¿

The compound also is a potential treatment for the management of related diseases, including Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease, where there is evidence that lipase inhibition improves risk factors, including insulin levels and cholesterol. Palmer said it could be licensed as a package for all indications, or separately. In addition, ATL-962 is one of four patent families for lipase inhibition, developed in collaboration with the drug-discovery services company, Oxford Molecular Group plc.

ATL-962 is more effective than Xenical in some tests and equivalent in others, but as yet there is no information on the side-effects profile, Alizyme said.

Palmer said he is talking to a number of potential partners and keeping them informed. ¿This product will deliver significant value for Alizyme sometime in the next 12 months,¿ he said. ¿Obesity is a large market and there is only one other product using our approach. This is a fantastic opportunity. The risk profile is low and we have got backup compounds.¿ n