U.K. team wins $9.1M to develop electronic anti-obesity implant

Researchers at Imperial College London in the U.K. are hard at work developing a new anti-obesity electronic implant, backed by a $9.1 million grant from a pan-European government agency.

According to the college, plans involve using the money to advance the development of i2MOVE, an implantable chip designed to stimulate the vagus nerve, modulating those signals to create a feeling of fullness so patients eat less. The money comes from the European Research Council and is one of two grants the group awarded the school, it notes.

As the BBC reported last month, researchers will begin animal trials soon, and hope to test the device in humans within three years.

Companies continue the push to develop better anti-obesity devices, but few are electronic-related implants. There's IntraPace, a 2012 Fierce 15 company, whose Abiliti anti-obesity device is implanted laparoscopically and targets the vagus nerve. EnteroMedics' ($ETRM) VBLOC implant works similarly, the BBC notes, though the company in February reported mixed results from a pivotal clinical trial (An FDA PMA application is still expected this year).

Other anti-obesity devices under development are much simpler in approach. EndoSphere, another 2012 Fierce 15 company, has SatiSphere, an endoscopically implantable device that slows the passage of food being digested so the stomach thinks it is full. GI Dynamics ($GID) is pursuing FDA approval of EndoBarrier, a tube-shaped device implanted endoscopically that separates food from the intestinal wall.

They are up against market leader Allergan ($AGN), whose Lap-Band device--which wraps around the stomach and tightens--has faced sales declines in the wake of safety concerns. Allergan hopes to sell its obesity-intervention business by mid-year. Many patients still turn to gastric bypass, though the surgery is highly invasive and creates long-term health side effects.

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- here's the BBC's take

Special Reports: IntraPace – 2012 Fierce 15 | EndoSphere – 2012 Fierce 15

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