Phytopharm has developed an anti-obesity compound from active fractions of the hoodia plant, an extremely rare cactus native to the Kalahari desert in Africa. It originally licensed the product to drug maker Pfizer but when the pharma company scaled back its natureceuticals unit last year, rights to the P57 molecule were handed back to Phytopharm.
The British company has since been in talks with manufacturers of meal replacement products for use of the ingredient. The US, with its highly developed and fast-growing market for the dietary control of obesity - thought to be worth more than $3 billion per annum - therefore represents a key market for Phytopharm, which is using a recent share placement to fund a 100-fold increase in production of hoodia.
Several of Phytopharm's other products, including experimental treatments for Alzheimer's and motor neurone disease, are also being developed in the US.
"There is considerable US investor interest in our portfolio,particularly our products for obesity, Alzheimer's and motor neurone disease (Lou Gehrig's disease), and it is important that US investors have a convenient mechanism to buy our securities," said CEO Dr Richard Dixey. "An ADR program will allow Phytopharm to penetrate the very important US capital markets."
Phytopharm has obtained a Bank of New York Level-I American depositary receipt (ADR) allowing its securities to be traded by specialist biotech investors. US regulators must first review the company's paperwork before it can list on Nasdaq.