Looking for a Miracle Obesity Drug from Zafgen

Zafgen — a young biotech company from Cambridge, MA — is preparing for two big milestones this year. A phase 3 clinical trial of its injectable obesity drug is due to start. The company has filed plans to go public with a stock offering that could raise as much as $86 million. Stock analysts are prone to wide mood swings, so be wary of any miracle-drug hype that might come from them in the absence of definitive data.

The drug, beloranib, works by a unique mechanism to reduce obesity by modifying fatty acid metabolism. It targets a specific enzyme, MetAP2, to exert this effect. No other obesity treatment works by such a mechanism.

Phase 2 results with this drug created a flurry of excitement late last year because the company saw signs of efficacy for its drug in patients with Prader-Willi syndrome. Such patients are severely affected and very resistant to treatment.

Brace yourself for a roller coaster of hype, punctuated by doses of reality. The smartest thing these folks are doing is targeting severe obesity. By so doing, they might blow past many of the barriers that bedevil people targeting less severely affected patients — exaggerated safety concerns, unrealistic hurdles for efficacy, and resistance to covering treatment, to name a few.

“Out of difficulties grow miracles.” — Jean de la Bruyere

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Miracle Orange Crate Label, photograph courtesy Orange County Archives / flickr

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