Bayer to Eliminate Unsightly Chin Fat

As my husband and I recently looked through photos of our wedding, he kept repeating the same thing: “Yikes, check out my triple chin.” Click. “Another triple chin.” Click. “Hmm, maybe I need to work out.” In reality, his perceived folds of flab were a result of unfortunate camera angles (I swear, dear. Your chin is splendid.). But if a day comes when he genuinely suffers from chin bulge, Bayer might have just the solution. Yesterday, the company agreed to fork over $43 million upfront and upwards of $300 million in milestone payments for Kythera Biopharmaceuticals’ ATX-101, an adipolytic agent “designed to reduce small volumes of facial fat.” Yes, that’s right, folks: it’s a chin fat drug. Because I tend to cover pharmaceuticals that are more in the disease-modifying category rather than those in the aesthetics-modifying category, I was pretty shocked by the price tag. Then I took a look at Allergan’s sales forecast for its wrinkle smoother Botox—the company is predicting it will bring in about $1.3 billion this year. (Well, that’s before subtracting out the $600 million Allergan agreed to pay today to settle criminal and civil charges related to the marketing of Botox.) In other words, the potential market for ATX-101 seems pretty vast. Indeed, I imagine my husband isn’t the only one to look at a photo (poorly angled or not) and cringe. ATX-101 is in Phase II studies, and seems to be administrated in a relatively painless injection. All this made me wonder how one goes about getting rid of small fat deposits without, well, sucking them out. It looks like the folks at Kythera, which is conveniently based in Los Angeles, first thought the active component in the formulation of ATX-101 was phosphatidylcholine, a major component of biological membranes that sports a polar head and fatty acid tails. However, further studies showed that deoxycholate, a secondary bile acid put into the formulation to make the phosphatidylcholine micelles soluble, was actually the secret to getting rid of unsightly chin fat. Deoxycholate, a detergent, causes a shift in the osmotic balance of a cell--in other words, water rushes into the fat cell, causing it to burst.  The finding was curious, as deoxycholate appeared to be only affecting fat tissues when administered in vivo. Kythera eventually determined that deoxycholate isn’t necessarily selective for fat cells, but that tissues in the subcutaneous fat that are protein rich are resistant to its effects. Hence, when administered locally, it appears to be able to get rid of the fat without impacting other tissues. And there you have it, drug goes in, fatty chin goes out. Since later stage trials are pending, the chin-fat sensitive will have to stick to photoshop for now.

Author: Lisa Jarvis

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  1. Will it work with belly flab, I wonder?

  2. Interesting, Lisa, because Allergan also gained approval last year (Dec ’08 actually) for their Latisse brand of bimatoprost, a PGF2alpha compound used in ophthalmic solutions to treat the intraocular pressure of glaucoma. A side effect of the anti-glaucoma formulation increased the density and thickness of eyelashes. “Cosmeceutical” companies seized upon this and made bimatoprost knockoffs like Revitalash until the FDA shut them down for marketing an unapproved drug.

    Allergan already had the Latisse formulation of bimatoprost in clinical trials for hypotrichosis (loss of eyelashes). I wrote about this extensively at Terra Sig and will ultimately port these classic posts over to here at my new home.

    But I mention this because bimatoprost has also been observed to reduce extraorbital fat. I wonder if the ATX-101 acquisition has something to do with an overall program there for regional, topical fat-reduction drugs.

  3. The press release makes it sound like Kythera made some kind of novel discovery and decided to apply it to fat removal. In fact subcutaneous injection of deoxycholate and phosphatidyl choline (i.e. mesotherapy) has been performed for cosemtic fat reduction for decades in Europe and S America. A mixture of the two ingredients was marketed as Lipodissolve in the US until its use was recently prohibited by the FDA. Kythera however pursued controlled clinical trials of the substances for approval. It sounds like they have promising results. If it pans out (safety and patentability, I predict it will be a blockbuster like Botox.