17 December 2002

University of Queensland start-up company Adipogen Pty Ltd has secured $330,000 in seed funding to develop a new class of anti-obesity drug.

UQ Faculty of Health Sciences researchers, Professor John Prins and Dr Louise Hutley have identified a key protein that causes the production of human fat cells. Blocking this protein from having its effect at the level of the fat cell will be a novel approach to treating obesity and is the focus of the research and development. A patent application has been lodged in the US, and world-wide patent protection is being established.

In contrast to the existing anti-obesity drugs on the market, which are either appetite suppressants or inhibitors of fat absorption, this novel approach aims to treat the actual source of obesity and limit the development of fat cells within the patient.

Obesity is a major cause of death and illness in Western countries. For instance, it is estimated that 20 percent of American adults are obese at a cost of US$140 billion per year.

Adipogen was formed in 2002 by UniQuest, The University of Queensland’s technology commercialisation company. UniQuest has licensed the intellectual property associated with the development of the new drug to Adipogen, which has attracted seed funding from Uniseed Pty Ltd, the $20 million pre-seed fund formed in 2001 by the UQ and Melbourne University.

UniQuest’s managing director, David Henderson, believes the Adipogen technology could see a major new pharmaceutical developed.

“The market for anti-obesity drugs is estimated to be in excess of US$5 billion per year,” he said. “The exciting thing about this UQ technology is it has the potential to result in the development of a new type of drug that acts to block the development of fat cells, rather than just suppressing appetite.”

Adipogen Pty Ltd will use the funding to identify the mechanism underlying the formation of pre-fat cells and develop compounds that inhibit their development. This work will be carried out within the Department of Medicine, UQ and the Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

For further information, contact UniQuest managing director David Henderson (07 3365 4037 or 0418 745 404).