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Potential obesity breakthrough boosts Marcadia

July 20, 2009

Marcadia Biotech is now on the radar screen.

CEO Fritz French thinks the publication of the Carmel company’s research on obesity-fighting compounds by the major scientific journal *Nature Chemical Biology will grab attention of scientists and other drug companies around the world.“It gets us more exposure to large pharma companies collaborating down the road — on other things,” French said. The *Nature article involved Marcadia’s collaborative work with New Jersey-based drug giant Merck & Co. Inc. But the Carmel-based biotech firm has several other obesity and diabetes-fighting drugs in its pipeline.

“All of these things add to your credibility and image,” French said.

*Nature Chemical Biology is a sister publication of the widely known journal *Nature.

The *Nature article demonstrated the elimination of obesity in rodents in one week with an injection of Marcadia-developed molecules. The molecules, licensed from Indiana University, combine some of the protein sequence of two naturally occurring hormones that regulate blood sugar, glucagon and glucagon-like-peptide-1.

The novel combination had a big impact on the mice used in tests of the drug. Marcadia’s researchers found that a single injection of their best molecule in mice decreased body weight by 25 percent and fat mass by 42 percent after one week. Repeated treatment had even greater effect.

“The results that we saw in these animal models were unprecedented,” French said.

Marcadia and Merck will move the experimental molecules into human trials, which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to take all the way to market. And it may not get there. Plenty of experimental drugs have shown great promise in animals only to fail in humans.

But the buzz about Marcadia’s potential breakthrough could help the company with future fund-raising needs. To date, the 3-year-old company has raised $16 million in venture capital.

It has 10 employees and works closely with researchers at IU, who toil under Marcadia co-founder Richard DiMarchi. DiMarchi and University of Cincinnati physician Matthias Tschöp were the co-lead authors of the *Nature article.

“It is an important milestone for the company to get this external validation,” French said. “We’ve been relatively under the radar of a lot of people until now.”•

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