FDA panel backs Kythera's double chin-fighting shot

Kythera ($KYTH) won the unanimous support of an FDA advisory panel for its fat-busting injection, rolling toward approval with a first-of-its-kind treatment.

The agency's independent Dermatologic and Ophthalmic Drugs Advisory Committee voted 17-0 that the drug's benefits outweighed its risks for patients looking to reduce submental fat, or double chin. The FDA is not required to follow its panels' votes, though it most commonly does, and the agency has promised to make a final decision on the injection by May 13. If all goes according to plan, Kythera plans to launch the drug, ATX-101, in the second half of this year.

The biotech's shares have more than tripled since it pulled off a $73 million IPO in 2012, rising steadily as investors bet ATX-101 can carve out a space on the aesthetic market and potentially lure a Big Pharma acquirer. Kythera is pitching the injection as a much-needed nonsurgical option for double chin reduction, citing an American Society for Dermatologic Surgery survey that estimates 68% of Americans are "bothered" by submental fat.

Kythera regained full rights to ATX-101's potential last year, orchestrating an $84 million deal to buy out ex-partner Bayer. And the drug, a synthetic version of the fat-blasting deoxycholic acid, could bring in more than $300 million a year once approved, Leerink analyst Seamus Fernandez has said.

Kythera CEO Keith Leonard

"This milestone demonstrates our commitment to developing first-in-class aesthetic products through a focus on scientific rigor and innovation," Kythera CEO Keith Leonard said in a statement. "At Kythera, we remain focused on investing in novel treatments that will allow aesthetic physicians to better meet the needs of their patients."

Kythera is also focused on raising some cash now that it has a likely approval ahead. The biotech filed for a $125 million offering as soon as the market closed on Monday. Its share price was down several points at the end of the day.

Beyond its top prospect, Kythera is working to build out a pipeline of aesthetic medicines. Last month, the California biotech signed a $27 million deal with Actelion ($ATLN) to get its hands on a once-failed anti-inflammatory medicine that could have a future as a treatment for hair loss.

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