The scientific community was turned upside down for a period back in 2007 when Ronald Evans revealed an experimental drug named GW501516. Evans led a study in mice that showed the GlaxoSmithKline Plc compound significantly increased their fat burning and athletic performance, with little to no exercise.
This led media outlets, research publications, and even personal trainers to ponder the question - can you really get the benefits of exercise from a pill?
When news of the drug’s “miracle” effects gained popularity, Evans was quick to warn the masses that the pills were not yet ready for human use. It contained potentially dangerous compounds.
Yet that didn’t stop elite-level athletes from experimenting with the drug, known as Endurobol, and ultimately led to its ban by WADA in 2009. Then, a health warning was issued in 2013 by WADA stating that GW501516 posed some serious side effects including tumor growth.
The New Muscle Building Drug - MA0211
In the 10 years since Evans breakthrough findings, he’s begun testing a new drug called MA0211 that can “safely” enhance human cellular metabolism. Evans’ company, Mitobridge Inc., received $45 million in funding to test the drug’s efficacy in treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a rare genetic mutation affecting approximately one in 5,000 men. The disease causes progressive loss of muscle, and ends up claiming the lives of those affected by the disease by age 26. If Evans’ new drug is able to help build muscle in those with the disease, it could unleash a new era of muscle-building products in the supplement industry, provided it passes FDA regulations.
The Mitobridge team, along with Astellas Pharma Inc., believe they’ve developed a safe drug compared to Evans’ previous 2007 compound. It only activates the genes involved in fat burning while avoiding the more dangerous, unrelated genes that were responsible for the nasty side effects of the previous breakthrough drug of the previous decade.
Following completion of the Phase I safety trial of the new drug (estimated completely July 2018), the next batch of testing will involve human patients affected by Duchenne.
Kazumi Shiosaki, managing director of the venture firm MPM Capital, that helped start Mitobridge, commented on the new drug:
“Our current intent here is to focus on rare diseases where there is unmet need.”
The Mitobridge team believes that limiting the drug’s target audience to solely those in dire need will make it more likely to pass FDA regulations and then be available via prescription to patients afflicted with Duchenne.
Evans and his team feel it’s far too soon to explore what other application for which the drug could be used, but isn’t ruling out the possibility of prescribing it to healthy individuals:
“The challenge for this kind of drug is deciding who should get it. I’m mindful that the FDA can only approve drugs that can actually treat a disease. This is a new concept.”
What do you think of this new “exercise” pill? Will researchers actually be able to develop a pill that can mimic the effects of exercise, or, perhaps more importantly, should they be tinkering with things that affect the human genome is such a dramatic way? Would you use an exercise pill if it was created and forego the heavy lifting in the gym?
Leave a comment below with your thoughts.