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Overindulging on Holiday Treats? Bioelectronic Stimulators May Soon Help

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Today, an increasing amount of people are living an increasingly sedentary and gluttonous lifestyle.  Whether this is due to more screen time, work-from-home practices, or something else entirely, the result is the same – Obesity has become an epidemic.  While smoking topped the list of leading causes of preventable deaths for ages, it was in the 1990s that Obesity began to vie for this unwanted moniker.  By the 2000s, it became the number one cause of preventable deaths and has stayed atop the list ever since.  As a result, pharmaceutical companies and biotech researchers have been hard at work ever since, developing solutions for dealing with the situation.  One of the latest approaches involves ‘bioelectronic stimulators' that look to trick the brain into thinking one is full when ingested.

Understanding Bioelectronic Stimulators

In a recent paper titledA vibrating ingestible bioelectronic stimulator modulates gastric stretch receptors for illusory satiety“, released through science.org, researchers detail a new approach to tackling obesity.  Rather than attempting to manipulate the body's endocrine system or through “invasive surgical and endoscopic interventions,” this approach makes use of what they call ‘bioelectronic stimulators' – essentially pills that vibrate while in the stomach that are safe to pass through the gastrointestinal tract.

The purpose of these pills, which the researchers call the “Vibrating Ingestible BioElectronic Stimulator (VIBES)”, is to stimulate nerve endings within the stomach lining that play a role in ‘feeling full'.  While human trials have not yet begun, it is shared that early tests were highly successful in decreasing intake among pigs by as much as 40%.  The study provides the following description of the process involved with these pills.

“The VIBES was designed to be orally ingested, to sustain contact with the gastric lining, to activate upon submersion in gastric fluid, to vibrate with amplitudes sufficient to stimulate gastric IGLEs for a set time period, and to pass safely through the GI tract.”

It should be noted that while VIBES may represent a gentler approach to obesity than existing options at this time, these tests were completed with pigs and not humans.  It should be interesting moving forward to see if such an approach can be brought to fruition, as effective obesity treatments have already proven both life-changing for users and extremely lucrative for companies like Novo Nordisk.

Why is Obesity So Bad?

What makes Obesity so terrible is the strain that it puts on not only the healthcare system but each and every system within the human body.  Increased fat leads to atherosclerosis, which results in strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and more.  It is also typically accompanied by diabetes, which means nerve issues, gait issues, sugar comas, and ketoacidosis.  It results in systemic inflammation, acid reflux, and more.  The list goes on and on and on.

Another reason it has become so dangerous is one that is not as commonly discussed (and often derided when it is) – normalization.  There are always exceptions that may result in obesity being out of a person's control.  However, the fact that 42% of North Americans live with it, alongside an age that promotes acceptance of all body types, has resulted in obesity being viewed in a normal light.  This means that not only is obesity accompanied by a litany of terrible health ailments, is has become prevalent with a decreased awareness surrounding the need to do something about it.

Current Solutions?

On paper, the solution to obesity looks simple enough – burn more calories than you take in.  Traditionally, this means eating less, eating healthy, and exercising more.  This isn't always possible though, which has resulted in various other solutions being developed over the years.  The following are examples of these.

Surgery: In the most extreme cases, some individuals turn to solutions like gastric bypass or gastric banding surgeries.  These typically involve restricting the stomach size and preventing overindulging in food.

Pharmaceuticals: Before invasive surgeries are considered, many are now turning to pharmaceutical solutions like semaglutide (i.e., Ozempic and Wegovy).  Medications such as these work by manipulating the endocrine system and its effect on appetite, digestion, and blood sugar.

Naturally, each of these approaches can have major side-effects of their own, making the preferred approach towards obesity lifestyle changes instead.


Top BioTech Companies

As it stands, a bioelectronic stimulator used to decrease appetite is nothing more than a potential solution to obesity.  The issue remains, however, and pharmaceutical companies are hard at work developing effective approaches like semaglutide.  The following are a few examples of these.

*Figures provided below were accurate at the time of writing and are subject to change.  Any potential investor should verify metrics*

1.  Novo Nordisk

finviz dynamic chart for  NVO

MarketcapForward P/E 1 Yr.Earnings Per Share (EPS)
460,558,358,37739.20$2.41

Novo Nordisk has made significant strides in the obesity treatment market, particularly with its FDA-approved weight loss injectable treatment, Wegovy.  The company's sales from obesity care products surged by 174% during the first nine months of 2023, reflecting the high demand for obesity treatments.

2. Pfizer, Inc.

finviz dynamic chart for  PFE

MarketcapForward P/E 1 Yr.Earnings Per Share (EPS)
161,035,707,08818.56$1.83

Pfizer, alongside other major pharmaceutical companies like Novartis and Amgen, is actively developing its own obesity treatments.  The potential growth of the anti-obesity medication market, forecasted to reach $100 billion by 2030, has attracted these companies to invest in developing solutions for obesity.

3. Eli Lilly and Company

finviz dynamic chart for  LLY

MarketcapForward P/E 1 Yr.Earnings Per Share (EPS)
541,674,709,43286.42$5.52

Eli Lilly and Company has developed Zepbound™ (tirzepatide) injection, which received FDA approval.  This treatment is notable for being the first of its kind to activate both GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) and GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) hormone receptors, making it a unique addition to the range of obesity treatments.