Trials set to start on tablets could replace expensive and invasive gastric surgery

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

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A tablet that inflates in the stomach like a gastric balloon creating a feeling of fullness could be the future solution for tackling obesity without invasive or costly surgery.

Oxford Medical Products has raised €3m (£2.5m) in equity investment to conduct the first trials of Sirona, a tablet that once in contact with stomach fluid will expand like a balloon and create a feeling of fullness.

It is an easy-to-take capsule reducing hunger within fifteen minutes and functions the same way a gastric balloon but without the need for invasive surgery. By creating a continuous feeling of fullness people should eat less and lose weight. It is designed to work for several weeks before breaking down slowly in the stomach and passing naturally.

Expands in stomach

Once the pill is swallowed it starts to expand in the stomach while suppressing the appetite. It has been designed to help people feel naturally full, putting them in control of their consumption and therefore their weight without the need for difficult lifestyle changes or complex, expensive surgery, the company says.

Oxford Medical Products was founded in 2017 by Professor Jan Czenurska a world-renowned expert in hydrogels, and Dr Hutan Ashrafian a pioneering bariatric surgeon, who realised they could combine their expertise to help people with weight loss. Dr Camilla Easter and Dr Nick Edwards, two medically trained entrepreneurs, joined the company to turn this vision into a reality.

Camilla explained: “The hydrogel acts like a gastric balloon in the sense that it is an inert bulking agent that tricks the stomach and body in thinking it is full. The tablet swells into a larger volume on contact with water and sodium alginate - one of the hydrogel polymers - helps the tablet break into smaller pieces so that it can be excreted naturally. It remains as an individual swollen structure until it is mechanically broken down by the stomach over time​.”

Provides satiety

Unlike other hydrogel-based weight-loss solutions, Sirona effectively targets the stomach to provide satiety. Furthermore, the company says the technology allows Sirona to be taken much less frequently than other weight-loss solutions, making it very easy to fit into busy lives.

Camilla added: “The idea was to create something that fits in with people’s lifestyles and we want to make the process as easy as possible for those who wish to take it. We want people to be without the feelings of hunger and to feel full for long periods of time. This way is non-invasive, non-chemical and non-pharmaceutical. As things stand at the moment, the other ways that work all involve surgery which is expensive and invasive. Current alternatives haven’t produced good results, and this is something we want to change​.

Dr Ashrafian says he has performed gastric operations every day – sleeves and bypasses - and that while the surgeries go very, very well and are very successful we can’t operate on everyone in the world who has an obesity problem. With obesity continuing to be a growing concern, we thought about what we could bring to the market that was easier, simpler and more cost-effective.

“Sirona works similarly to surgery, but with the convenience of a pill and the action is mechanical rather than chemical. Early pre-clinical trials are proving it to be very effective. We aim to bring Sirona to market by 2024 after the tests that are starting this year.​”

Partnering with Southampton and Bristol University Hospitals, Oxford Medical Products will use the funding to run human trials, testing Sirona's safety and efficacy as a weight-loss solution. The money raised will also be used to develop line extensions to specifically help patients suffering from type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), alongside initial research into a drug delivery platform for Oxford Medical Products core hydrogel IP​.

Sirona tablets can be taken at home and stay in the stomach for several weeks. They work 24/7 before it starts the process of breaking down and passing naturally.

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