Could a single compound, orally administered, prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver, and increase heart function and blood flow? ”Yes,” says Thomas Edlund, CEO of Betagenon, a spin-off of Umeå University. And yes, at times, he and his colleagues also find it hard to believe in the positive results from their preclinical and clinical studies.
When you eat well and exercise, the energy level in the cells drops. This activates the enzyme AMP Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) that refuels the cells by burning glucose and fat, and which increases the blood flow to provide the cells with these nutrients.
For these reasons, targeting and activating AMPK in order to reduce blood glucose and body fat has attracted great interest in recent years as a way to treat obesity, fatty liver, type 2 diabetes (T2D) and associated cardiovascular diseases. Until recently, no one had managed to bring an AMPK activator to clinical trials in humans. However, the young biopharmaceutical company Betagenon, a spin-off of Umeå University, in collaboration with Baltic Bio AB has made great progress in this field. The phase 1a, b clinical trials with their lead AMPK activator compound O304 will be finished before the end of the year.
”So far, we’re alone in the world in having advanced an AMPK activator to clinical trials. O304 has so far shown no signs of toxicity, and if some of the positive effects we’ve seen in the preclinical animal disease models are observed in patients, we’re home,” says Thomas Edlund, Ph.D., Prof. Founder and CEO of Betagenon.
Exercise in Pill
Today, almost 400 million individuals are suffering from T2D, and the alarming global increase is mainly due to the epidemic increase in obesity. The increased mortality in T2D is caused by cardiovascular complications, and only about 6% of T2D patients reach the goal of a complication-free life. Thus, there is huge need for better treatments.
AMPK activity decreases with age and obesity, and in animal models not only does O304 prevent diabetes, but also body fat gain, and fatty liver. In addition, O304 reduces the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood. In addition to these benefits, O304 works exceedingly well in combination with Metformin, the first-line drug of choice for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
O304 also improves heart function and peripheral blood flow, and acts as ’Exercise in pill’, such that animals that are treated with O304 increase their endurance and run longer distances without training. Thus, “O304 is also ideally suited to prevent the devastating cardiovascular complications affecting T2D patients,” says Thomas Edlund.
Ahead of Competition
Despite the fact that most of the world’s Big Pharma are working hard at finding new therapies for treating type 2 diabetes and obesity, Thomas Edlund is not worried that another company will advance a compound similar to O304 ahead of Betagenon/Baltic Bio AB.
”No, we follow the development in this field very closely and we know we’re first, and O304 is protected by a patent in all major markets,” he comments.