Zafgen says obesity drug succeeds in late-stage study

Zafgen Inc said data showed its experimental obesity drug was successful in treating patients with a rare genetic eating disorder, before the late-stage study was placed on hold after two patients died.

The company’s stock soared 78 percent in premarket trading.

Zafgen’s report on the drug, released on Wednesday, includes data from 74 patients who completed the trial and 27 patients who completed at least 75 percent of the trial before U.S. health regulators placed a partial hold on studies in October after a patient died due to unknown causes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered in December that all tests on the drug be completely halted after a second patient died from an artery blockage in the lung.

Zafgen has said its drug, beloranib, is the first experimental treatment to show significant reduction in both body weight and hyperphagia-related behavior in patients with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), the most common genetic cause of life-threatening obesity.

Pathologic hunger-related urges, known as hyperphagia, dominate the lives of those suffering from PWS, which can often lead to excessive overeating, choking, and stomach rupture.

Zafgen said on Wednesday it would give the FDA the efficacy and safety data from the study, along with data from another trial.

The drug developer said it is still trying to understand the impact of beloranib on blood clotting in order to lower the potential risk of its use.

Existing obesity drugs, including those from Vivus Inc, Orexigen Therapeutics Inc and Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc, are designed to suppress appetite by tinkering with nerve signals, tricking the brain into thinking that the stomach is full.

Zafgen’s beloranib takes a different approach, and aims to work by making the body produce less fat, along with burning off excess fat as fuel.

Zafgen’s stock jumped about 78 percent to $10 in premarket trade.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza)

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