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Topokine moves forward with clinical trials for a fat-reducing gel

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 19, 2013 09:00 AM

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Who among us doesn't want to shed some submental fat?

That, in case you have shed some of what you learned about human anatomy, is the area under your chin. And a Boston startup, Topokine Therapeutics, is announcing today that it is starting Phase 2 clinical trials of a topical gel that could combat the dreaded double chin. Topokine hopes its gel will be an alternative to cosmetic surgery for some people — if it can win FDA approval.

Phase 1 trials are generally conducted to prove a drug is safe, and Phase 2 to show that it does what it is intended to do. But Topokine says that its Phase 1 trial, in which healthy volunteers applied its XAF5 gel to their abdomen, already showed some reduction in fat, as observed by CT scans that compared people using the gel to people using a placebo. In the Phase 2 trial, the gel will be tested under the chin. The company is also working on an ointment that may be able to reduce bags under the eyes.

Topokine's gel is based on an already-approved drug that it is formulating in a new way. "We haven't yet released the name of the drug that we're using," says CEO Murat Kalayoglu. But it seems "to inhibit lipid synthesis, transport, and storage." In other words, it blocks the formation of fat cells under the skin, and shrinks fat cells that are already there. Do the fat cells go somewhere else in the body — perhaps one's thighs? Kalayoglu says that when the company has studied the gel in rodents and other small animals, it doesn't seem to. "We see an overall reduction in adiposity," he says. "These animals from an obesity and diabetic perspective are improved." Sounds promising...

The company announced earlier this year that it had secured funding from Boston-based Schooner Capital, but it didn't divulge the amount. Topokine will likely compete with Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, a publicly-traded California company that is developing a drug for submental fat. But Kythera's drug is delivered via injection.

Pictured above are Topokine chief scientific officer Michael Singer and Kalayoglu. (Note the tight chins.) The initial science for Topokine was done at Mass Eye & Ear Infirmary, and both Singer and Kalayoglu have worked there.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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