UK groups Phytopharm and Unilever say they are making “good progress” with their collaboration to develop weightloss management products based on the appetite suppressing Hoodia extract.

Phytopharm licensed the global patent rights for the extract of Hoodia, a plant indigenous to South Africa, for incorporation into weight loss products from the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in 1997. The company says that clinical studies have shown that Hoodia extract reduces calorie intake in overweight subjects, and that the agent has so far demonstrated an excellent safety and tolerability profile in clinical and toxicity trials.

In 2004, Phytopharm granted an exclusive global license to its obesity programme to Unilever, and the companies are are collaborating on a research and development programme of safety and efficacy studies, with a view to bringing new weight management products to market.

The companies have initiated certain “Stage 3 activities”, including expansion of the supply chain and additional safety studies which, they hope, will lead to consumer studies assessing reductions in calorie intake as part of a weight management programme in the general population.

“We are satisfied with the good progress to date. The timing is now right to further develop our supply chain and we look forward to advancing this product through additional clinical and consumer studies,” commented Unilever R&D programme director Kevin Povey.

Under the terms of the deal, Phytopharm will continue to receive reimbursement of its further development costs together with an undisclosed royalty on sales of all products containing the extract. Unilever is managing the agronomy programme, undertaking manufacturing and market research activities, and supporting the international patent programme for the products.