Nastech stands by obesity drug

BOTHELL – A day after revealing information that raised doubts about Nastech Pharmaceutical’s anti-obesity nasal spray, the company’s leaders said they stand by the experimental drug.

Steven Quay, Nastech’s chairman and chief executive, said he hasn’t seen anything yet that changes his mind about the potential for the PYY3-36 spray.

On Thursday, Nastech announced that the Merck &Co. pharmaceutical firm had agreed to sell the drug development program back to Nastech. Merck decided to back out after its tests suggested the nasal spray didn’t work.

Quay, in his first comments since Merck’s announcement, said his company’s researchers came to a different conclusion.

“Based on the clinical data generated by Merck that we have received to date, Nastech can state that its review indicates the nasal formulations are capable of delivering PYY to the bloodstream,” he told investors and analysts in a conference call.

Gordon Brandt, who is in charge of the Bothell-based company’s research and medical affairs, said Nastech is getting advice from a panel of national obesity experts.

“The conclusion of this panel was that nasal PYY merited further clinical testing,” Brandt said.

Nastech is preparing to further test the drug on its own, a process that will cost up to $5.5 million through the phase 2 clinical trials, Brandt added.

“In summary, our expert panel concurs with the FDA’s statement that it is likely that three- to six-month studies in about 200 subjects will be required” to show the drug’s potential effectiveness, he said.

Based on a naturally occurring hormone, PYY helps to create the full feeling most people experience after eating. Tests on both animals and people showed PYY could reduce calorie intake by up to 30 percent.

Brandt said those early test results from the injected form of PYY have since been independently confirmed.

As for Merck’s vote of no-confidence in PYY, Quay said that should not reflect on Nastech’s other nasal drug programs. In drugs that are further along than the PYY spray, the company already has proven its technique for delivering effective drug doses in nasal sprays, he said.

Reporter Eric Fetters: 425-339-3453 or

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