Public Release: 

Promising obesity therapy receives follow-on funding

Research Australia

Brisbane-based Adipogen Pty Ltd has raised a further $2.25 million to support the development of a novel treatment for obesity.

The investment was led by the Queensland Biocapital Funds (QBF) and supported by Uniseed, one of the company's original investors.

Adipogen was established by Uniquest from research work carried out in The University of Queensland and initially funded by Uniseed and the Queensland Government's technology fund BioStart. It has also received support of the Federal Government's Biotechnology Innovation Fund (BIF) and the Queensland Government's Innovation Start-Up Scheme (ISUS).

During this time the company identified a novel target (fibroblast growth factor-1 or FGF-1) for the treatment of obesity. This growth factor is responsible for the formation of the cells (apidocytes) that store fat, and Adipogen's initial studies have indicated that drugs that inhibit this growth factor could be used to treat obesity.

Adipogen's Chairman Dr Peter Devine said the company was extremely pleased to be partnering with QBF.

"Their strong links into the U.S. and technical expertise of their team and Scientific Advisory Board will be a great asset in taking Adipogen to its next stage of development. With this round of funding we aim to develop a lead drug to take into clinical trials," he said.

"Current therapies based on appetite suppression and the reduction of fat absorption have had limited success in treating the disease. Unlike these, Adipogen aims to develop the first drugs that actually target the underlying cause of obesity (fat cell formation), rather than the symptoms."

QBF CEO Mr Neill Colledge said: "QBF's investment is an endorsement of the calibre of work undertaken by Professor John Prins and his outstanding scientific team at the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrine Research.

"QBF remains committed to supporting novel Australian technologies and eagerly anticipates commercialisation of Adipogen's anti obesity research," Mr Colledge said.

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Contacts:

Dr Peter Devine, Uniseed Regional Director and Adipogen Chairman: +61 409 631 581

Mr Neill Colledge, QBF CEO: +61 419 727 112

Prof John Prins, Adipogen Director and Chief Scientist: +61 407 703 547

About Adipogen
Adipogen Pty Limited is focussed on developing targets and therapeutics for the treatment of obesity. Its current shareholders include the Queensland Biocapital Funds, Uniseed, UniQuest Pty Limited, The Queensland Institute of Medical Research, and TeQstart Pty Ltd.

Adipogen has identified a specific growth factor (FGF-1) which interacts with adipose tissue and stimulates proliferation of early stage fat cells (called pre-adipocytes). Furthermore, FGF-1 "primes" human adipocytes for differentiation into mature lipid containing adipocytes. In studies designed to determine FGF-1 effects on subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat cells, FGF-1 was shown to "prime" differentiation of both fat tissue types. Interesting, FGF-1 priming is the only culture condition in which intra-abdominal preadipocyte differentiation is observed. Thus, Adipogen's hypothesis is that the inhibition of FGF-1 action would be an effective mechanism to control intra-abdominal fat accumulation.

In support of this approach, recent results from Adipogen's research program have shown that inhibiting the FGF-1 signalling pathway results in inhibiting or decreasing fat cell development. Furthermore, addition of antagonistic antibodies and other inhibitors of the FGF-1 system result in the inhibition of the development of human fat cells.

About Obesity
Obesity is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the Western world, with its prevalence increasing in most communities. There are enormous personal and public costs associated with the disease, and current prevention and treatment strategies have limited efficacy. A recent report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 22% of Americans are clinically obese, with the disease affecting one third of all adults and one in five children. Similarly, the 2000 AUSDIAB survey in Australia revealed 47% of adults are overweight and 20% obese. Obesity leads to many medical complications including Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression. In addition, it can result in unemployment and social stigmatisation. In the US, the disease results in more than 300,000 deaths per annum and is estimated to cost US$140 billion per year. Australian government data shows obesity to be the 5th largest cause of disease burden (AUSDIAB).

About Queensland Biocapital Funds
Queensland BioCapital Funds is a $100 million closed end venture capital fund which invests in the human biosciences sector. QBF has made seven investments to date and is actively assessing several other opportunities. Queensland BioCapital Funds Pty Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of QIC, a $42 billion wholesale funds manager (www.qic.com).

About Uniseed
Uniseed, is $51 million pre-seed venture capital investment fund, operating at the Universities of Melbourne and Queensland. It focuses almost exclusively on high technology companies, and invests at the earliest stages of company formation and development.

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