Fighting Diabesity

By Josh Baxt
February 1, 2011

On January 27, a group of biotech leaders met at the Amylin Pharmaceuticals headquarters in San Diego to discuss the challenges of treating diabesity (the confluence of diabetes and obesity) and how the biotech community is meeting those challenges. Sponsored by, the event featured panel discussions and quick presentations that highlighted the terrible consequences of the diabesity epidemic and the strategies being used to stem the tide.Sanford-Burnham’s Chief Business Officer, Dr Paul Laikind, gave a quick overview of the Institute’s approach to finding new treatments. He highlighted the critical importance of the Prebys Center, our small molecule compound screening center, and how Sanford-Burnham is using this technology for early stage drug discovery. He also discussed our recently announced partnerships with Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Takeda Pharmaceutical, which will lead to new discoveries and hopefully new medicines. The Takeda collaboration is particularly relevant, as it will target obesity.

“We expect to identify new biomarkers, pathways and targets and will further correlate these with animal models to provide platforms for drug discovery. In the future, we expect to leverage the results of this collaboration to seek new drug candidates – ideally with our colleagues at Takeda,”  said Dr. Laikind.

Though speakers were hopeful that new treatments would eventually reach the market, much of the discussion revolved around the regulatory environment. The first panel included Daniel Bradbury,  Amylin CEO, and Jack Lief, CEO of Arena Pharmaceuticals, who are both well-versed on the pitfalls of the FDA approval process, as Amylin and Arena have had recent difficulties getting obesity drugs approved. At one point, Bradbury noted the cost of inaction, as “diabesity will cost the United State more than $3.4 trillion over the next decade.”

Dr. Laikind notes that Sanford-Burnham is taking a different approach to treating obesity than Amylin and Arena. “Rather than focusing on centrally acting agents that suppress appetite, we are seeking to rev up peripheral energy utilization as a way to burn fat and help obese patients  manage their weight.”

To read more about the event and view photos, visit the Xconomy site.

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Josh Baxt

Josh was an SBP Communications staff member.


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