Phytopharm in negotiations to sell branded Hoodia rights

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Hoodia gordonii Phytopharm

UK-based life sciences firm Phytopharm has confirmed that it is in negotiations to sell off the rights to branded hoodia weight-management ingredient P57.

Chief executive Tim Sharpington told that the firm was currently undertaking negotiations regarding a sale, only three months after Phytopharm assured this site that Hoodia had a bright future within its stable.

Widely sold as a weight-management product, hoodia gordoonii​ is a rare succulent found in the South African desert that supporters claim fires satiety-stimulators in the brain when ingested, leaving people with the sensation of fullness.

Tarnished image

But safety concerns and fake hoodia supplements flooding the market over the years have tarnished the plant’s image, and Sharpington said that Phytopharm’s decision to axe Hoodia marks its move away from naturally-derived products towards more traditional pharmaceuticals.

Phytopharm alone holds an exclusive patent from the South African government in 1995 to isolate, extract and synthesise the steroidal glycoside molecule P57 that is widely believed to be solely responsible for the appetite-suppressant effects of hoodia gordonii​.

The future looked bright in December 2004, when Phytopharm announced a €20m joint development partnership with Unilever to develop a P57-based SlimFast shake.

Long-running saga

But in November 2008 Unilever terminated the partnership citing “safety and efficacy” ​concerns over the product – which was rumoured to cause digestive problems in a shake formulation because it was metabolised too quickly.

Before news of the potential sale broke, Phytopharm’s public position was that it was seeking a new investment partner to fund further product development, with “active negotiations” ​ongoing as of July 2010.

Phytopharm’s website states that scientific articles relating to clinical trials conducted with Unilever would be published in Q3 of 2010 under the terms of a mutual termination agreement.

Asked whether the overdue research would be published this year, Sharpington said: “We’ve submitted articles to peer-review journals, and should have received them back by now – the process is overdue and we’re looking into it.”

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