Boston-based biotech Syntis Bio launched on Tuesday with the goal of advancing alternatives to GLP-1 receptor agonists for the treatment of obesity and other metabolic and rare conditions.

Syntis’ lead program is SYNT-101, which the biotech is developing for obesity. The oral drug candidate is designed to be taken once-daily and block the absorption of nutrients in the duodenum, diverting them to the lower small intestine where nutrient absorption is more controlled.

According to Syntis, this mechanism of action mimics the effects of gastric bypass surgery and triggers signaling cascades that produce satiety hormones such as GLP-1.

Syntis is currently testing a formulation of SYNT-101 in a human trial for a preliminary assessment of its safety and tolerability, as well as establish an initial efficacy profile for blocking nutrient absorption in the upper small intestine. A full readout from this early study is expected by the end of 2024, data from which will form the biotech’s Investigational New Drug application in 2025.

“While GLP-1 drugs have delivered new hope and unprecedented efficacy, there is significant demand for additional treatment options, given ongoing issues with accessibility, cost, side effects and long-term maintenance,” Syntis co-founder and CEO Rahul Dhanda said in a statement.

SYNT-101 has produced “encouraging results so far” in its human study, underscoring its potential as an “alternative or complementary obesity therapy,” Dhanda said.

Syntis’ launch comes as the obesity market is poised for explosive growth in the coming years. Last month, analysts estimated that GLP-1 receptor agonists would exceed $150 billion in value by the early 2030s. Through the end of the decade, this drug class will dominate the metabolic diseases space as obesity rates continue to climb and supply chains stabilize, according to analysts.

The weight-loss market is currently dominated by Novo Nordisk, which owns Wegovy (semaglutide), and Eli Lilly, which markets Zepbound (tirzepatide). While the two frontrunners could capture around 80% of the multibillion-dollar market, several other companies are also developing their own GLP-1 therapies, including Amgen and Boehringer Ingelheim.

Syntis is also looking to jump into the lucrative obesity space, but is differentiating itself from its competitors by targeting a different pathway.

SYNT-101 was developed using Syntis’ proprietary SYNT platform, which leverages mussel-inspired polymer chemistry to coat catalase-rich tissues—like the duodenum—with a safe and transient polydopamine layer. The polydopamine coating can be sustained for up to 24 hours, after which it is naturally expelled from the body, according to the company.

SYNT’s approach has the potential to open up a variety of therapeutic effects. In addition to nutrient exclusion, SYNT can also target new tissues or boost the bioavailability of oral drugs, Syntis contends.

“By unlocking the small intestine’s therapeutic value, we are pioneering more effective treatments across a vast spectrum of conditions,” Dhanda said. Beyond obesity, Syntis’ platform is also designed to be used to develop novel therapies for diabetes and rare diseases such as homocystinuria and maple syrup urine disease.

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