Breaking the link between fat and diabetes

November 24, 2009

in 2010, Monash University, Prime Minister's Prizes

Michael Cowley has shown how our brain tells our body we are full. Credit: Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research

Michael Cowley has shown how our brain tells our body we are full. Credit: Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research

Why do we get fat? What’s the link between obesity, diabetes and hypertension? Can we break the link? These are critical questions around the world. Prof. Michael Cowley may have the answers.

He’s shown how our brains manage our consumption and storage of fat and sugar and how that can go wrong. He’s created a biotech company that’s trialling four obesity treatments.

Michael has shown unequivocally that losing weight isn’t just a matter of will power.

Now with his colleagues at Monash University he is discovering why obesity increases risks of heart disease and diabetes. And he’s developing therapies to break the connection between these conditions.

In the latest phase three trial of one of his drugs over a quarter of the 4,500 people in the trial lost at least 10 per cent of their weight. Equally importantly the drug also reduced waist circumference, HDL and triglycerides—important risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

The drug—called Contrave­—is designed to act on a specific group of neurons in the brain to suppress appetite and cause sustained weight loss, through a combination therapy.

Contrave combines new formulations of two existing drugs: Bupropion, an antidepressant; and Naltrexone, an addiction medication.

In October 2009 Michael received the Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year—one of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

Further information: Michael Cowley, Michael.cowley@med.monash.edu.au, grants.innovation.gov.au/SciencePrize

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