A recently formed company that was spun out of Imperial College London has signed a deal with US drugs company Nastech to develop a nasal spray that could treat obesity by reducing appetite.

Nastech also signed an agreement with American pharmaceuticals group Merck yesterday to license the spray, which is in early clinical trials. This deal could bring in $346m (£191m) to Nastech if the drug is approved by regulators and sells well.

Nastech would then have to pay an undisclosed amount to Imperial’s new venture, Thiakis, and money would be paid to the university, the Wellcome Trust and Diabetes UK, which funded some of the research that led to the potential treatment. Nastech has bought a minority stake in Thiakis as part of the deal.

Thiakis was set up in the summer by the head of investigative medicine at Imperial, Professor Steve Bloom, and Dr John Burt, who recently left the college’s technology commercialisation department. The two men signed a deal with Imperial last week to secure the rights to Prof Bloom’s work on two hormones, PYY and oxyntomodulin, which are produced by the body to suppress appetite. The company is talking to early stage investors and pharmaceutical companies about developing tablets containing the hormones to treat obesity.

Another British company looking at obesity drugs is Alizyme, which reported first-half results yesterday.

It said it would begin clinical trials in the UK to compare its potential blockbuster obesity drug, ATL-962, with Xenical, the market leader, when treating diabetes.

More here.