July 29, 1995 in Nation/World

Guinea (Or Is That Porky?) Pigs

Associated Press
 

They want to be human guinea pigs.

They want leptin, a protein that in early tests was said to cause genetically obese mice to lose one-third of their weight in two weeks.

They are the hundreds of overweight people who have called the big biotech company Amgen Inc. since Wednesday, when the promising news was disclosed. Amgen has agreed to pay New York’s Rockefeller University $20 million for exclusive rights to develop products based on the gene.

Amgen’s drugs include Epogen and Neupogen, which help produce blood cells for kidney dialysis and chemotherapy patients. It received 200 calls after announcing human testing of a drug to battle amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, about a year and half ago, spokesman David Kaye said.

But word of the new fat-busting protein produced 200 calls on Thursday alone. The callers were told commercial development, if it occurs at all, is years away.

“We do not want to create the perception in the public that this is available, or even that we are going to start trials on humans,” Kaye said. “Yes, we are very excited, but we’ve only tested this thing in mice.”

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