Joslin Diabetes Center and Ember Therapeutics, Inc. today announced an
agreement aimed at utilizing "brown fat," a type of fat that helps
increase energy expenditure within the body, as a novel technique for
managing obesity and diabetes. Joslin's Chief Academic Officer, Dr.
Ronald Kahn and other Joslin faculty, Drs. Yu-Hua Tseng and Aaron
Cypess, have performed pioneering work in this field over the past
several years, and were the first to show that a natural protein called
BMP7 can help modulate the levels of brown fat.
"BMP7 is active in stimulating brown fat development in cells in culture
and in test animals, so we are very excited in having this opportunity
to determine its potential as a new therapeutic approach for obesity and
type 2 diabetes," said Dr Ronald Kahn.
Brown fat is a type of "good" fat which actually burns energy rather
than storing it, which the more common white fat does. The Joslin
Diabetes Center team has identified and characterized molecular pathways
that are critical to activating brown fat versus white fat. A 2008
Joslin study by Dr. Tseng and colleagues reported the discovery that a
protein called BMP7 could induce brown fat formation. In 2009, Dr.
Cypess and his team demonstrated for the first time that brown fat is
metabolically active in adult humans. Previously, it had been thought
that brown fat was present only in babies and children. A further study
in 2011 from Tseng's group demonstrated that precursor cells in mice can
be triggered by BMP7 and other inducers to make brown fat.
Ember is a Boston-based company, launched by Third Rock Ventures in late
2011 to translate this groundbreaking biology in the emerging area of
brown fat into a proprietary pipeline of treatments for metabolic
disease, including type-2 diabetes and obesity.
"We are pleased to have the opportunity to further develop this BMP7
technology," said Louis Tartaglia, Ph.D., president and interim chief
executive officer of Ember and partner at Third Rock Ventures, LLC. "We
look forward to working closely with the Joslin team and advancing
research into this promising protein as part of our brown fat program."
Under the agreement, Ember has the exclusive license to intellectual
property from Joslin covering BMP7 technology, including a number of
patented discoveries related to the use of the protein BMP7 to
manipulate brown fat for the purpose of controlling glucose levels and
managing weight. Based on these discoveries, Ember plans to advance the
BMP7 program into human clinical trials and ultimately hopes to develop
an approved drug product that would aid in controlling these metabolic
disease conditions that have reached epidemic proportions.
"We are excited to be working with the team at Ember, which has shown a
strong commitment to building this young venture into creation of new
patient-centered treatments," said Dr. Nandan Padukone, VP,
Commercialization & Ventures at Joslin. "With this strategic agreement,
we combine Joslin's scientific discoveries related to BMP7 with Ember's
complementary expertise in drug development and vision of creating new
therapeutics targeting brown fat," he added.
Last year, Joslin's Office of Commercialization and Ventures (OCV),
created Joslin Technologies as an accelerator to work closely with
industry partners and deliver research solutions. The OCV also works
with Joslin Ventures, a for-profit small business, also formed in 2011,
to develop novel product and service opportunities to a commercially
ready stage with commercialization grants and investments from the
Source: Joslin Diabetes Center