Utilizing Microbiome Research to Support the Development of Obesity Biotherapeutics

Biologics Development

microbiome and obesity biotherapeutics
Microbiome research studying disruptions in the gastrointestinal tract may provide the answer to curbing obesity.
Image source: Flickr CC user USDA

Common belief tells us that our weight is determined by caloric intake and physical activity. The more we eat, the more we need to exercise in order to burn off those calories. If we don’t exercise enough to balance how much food we eat, our body stores that excess energy as fat. The more fat present on our body, the more we run the risk of developing obesity. Because obesity is linked to over 60 chronic diseases, the medical community generally emphasizes weight management as the first step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The focus on curbing obesity stems from other reasons as well. Headlines proclaiming the country has an epidemic on our hands might be more accurate than we think. Current estimates say that no state in the U.S. has less than a 21% obesity rate.1 If we continue along this trajectory, over half of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030. Clearly, something must be done, but when you consider the fact that rates were only 14% two decades ago, something else appears to be at work here. If weight can be controlled solely by diet and exercise, why is gastric bypass surgery used to treat obese patients? With the “healthy-for-you” attitudes that pervade today’s society, wouldn’t it make more sense for obesity rates to decrease instead?

Microbiome Research May Uncover the Underlying Cause of Obesity

Previous research into the intestinal microbiome has demonstrated that stress and injury can have lasting repercussions on the human body—including increased risk of obesity. Unfavorable changes in gut flora can actually impact the structure and function of the intestine.2 In fact, much effort has been devoted to manipulating the microbes in our intestinal tracts. So if researchers can engineer our gut bacteria to fight pathogens or regulate our moods, it would stand to argue that protecting the diversity and health of the microbiome could aid the battle against obesity.3

Microbiome Research and Potential Obesity Biotherapeutics

Microbiome research has already led to the development of biologics for treating conditions such as recurrent C. difficile infection and irritable bowel syndrome, both of which hinge on protecting gastrointestinal flora. Based on these findings, firms are exploring the possibility of using these therapies to address obesity concerns. While it requires a shift from previous beliefs about using strict exercise and diet regimens to control weight, biotherapeutics might, in fact, be the answer to addressing rising obesity rates.

The option offers other advantages to patients as well. Not only are adverse health conditions associated with obesity, the condition can complicate certain procedures such as necessary surgeries. When all factors are taken into account, annual economic costs can total $450 billion. Factor in the growing population of patients with obesity, these figures can quickly balloon out of control. An effective solution must be found and soon.

Based on information obtained from research regarding the microbiome, viable drug candidates already exist for obesity biotherapeutics. Their ultimate success depends on whether their administration can be effective for indications other than their intended use. Thankfully, the vast amounts of information obtained from existing microbiome research support this hypothesis. If protecting the microbiome can address public health threats like C. difficile, why wouldn’t ensuring the health of diverse gastrointestinal flora lead to other benefits like better caloric management? With C. difficile, researchers have seen what happens when unwanted microbes flourish while more beneficial ones are eradicated. Similar phenomenon has been observed in patients with obesity, where certain types of bacteria contribute to an environment that encourages the human body to gain weight.

Researchers are still in the early stages of using microbiome research to develop obesity biotherapeutics. Given the role of a healthy microbiome in staving off other gastrointestinal conditions, applying microbiome protection as a means of addressing obesity seems like a logical conclusion. And with the growing demographic, a market certainly exists.

BIOVIA Biologics is a comprehensive, integrated solution designed to support life sciences organizations in their efforts to develop biotherapeutics to address many pervasive health conditions, including obesity. It offers the tools necessary to manage the copious amounts of data generated during the R&D process. With such effective data management in place, life sciences firms can determine the viability of drugs early in the development process and whether such candidates can be used to treat multiple conditions. In today’s competitive market, biotherapeutics with versatile indications can offer depth to a catalog, giving an advantage. If your company is interested in a solution that can aid your research, please contact us today to learn more.

  1. “Examining Synthetic Biologics’ Disruptive Approach To Obesity,” January 25, 2016, http://seekingalpha.com/article/3830926-examining-synthetic-biologics-distruptive-approach-obesity
  2. ” Men, Stress and the Microbiome,” April 11, 2016, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2016-04-11/men-stress-and-the-microbiome
  3. ” Engineering the Human Microbiome Shows Promise for Treating Disease,” March 1, 2015, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/engineering-the-human-microbiome-shows-promise-for-treating-disease/