Irvine, Calif.-based medical device company Onciomed, Inc., has received a U.S. patent to treat obesity and diabetes with a path-breaking minimally invasive procedure.
The medical device, GVS technology system, mimics gastric surgery without the need to cut the stomach and offers an alternative to highly invasive, irreversible bariatric surgery.
“We restrict the stomach and imitate the procedure similar to gastric bypass surgery, without cutting portions of the stomach,” said Onciomed founder and CEO Dr. Raj Nihalani, who developed the device.
“This technology helps us get to the next level of intervention without doing much harm,” he told India-West.
Nihalani has worked for nearly 17 years in the medical device sector — where he focused on cardiology research, invented devices for coronary stents, and worked at start-ups including Endologix and AcuFocus (both acquired by larger companies).
Nihalani said he was inspired to address major health issues not only in the U.S., but worldwide. His research led to his focus on obesity and diabetes, which he said is “one of the biggest healthcare markets in the world.”
Onciomed’s process involves a single incision laparoscopic procedure. Once in place, the GVS provides a feeling of “fullness and satiety” and reduces absorption of fat and glucose.
Nihalani noted that the company has the opportunity to expand to 20 additional patents. Currently, Onciomed is raising capital and inviting private investors to invest in its technologies. The goal is to do clinical trials outside the U.S, and eventually seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals.
“With the invention of these novel products, what it does is it reduces the absorption of fat and glucose at the intestinal level which can help with diabetes prevention or reduce dependence. It can really help these patients not only lose weight, but correct diabetes status,” Nihalani said.
According to the World Health Organization, obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. In 2008, over 1.4 billion adults were overweight and more than half a billion were identified as obese. About 2.8 million people die from conditions related to being overweight or obese, the WHO said. More than one-third of adults in the U.S. and about 17% (12.5 million) children between the ages of 2-19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“What we are working on is a very novel technology. We feel that this is the next big thing in the healthcare field, and I’m glad that I am one of the first Indians to get patents in the obesity and diabetes phase,” Nihalani told India-West.
A study, “South Asian American Perspectives on Overweight, Obesity, and the Relationship Between Weight and Health,” was recently published through the CDC. It looked at the effects of health and weight among South Asian Americans by interviewing 75 South Asian Americans and measuring their BMI (body mass index). About 67% of the participants in the study were identified as overweight or obese and about 82% of those who were obese believed their weight affected their health, according to the study.
South Asians have higher risks for both cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes than do most other ethnic groups, the study noted.
“Among all Asians in the United States, South Asians have the highest rates of overweight and obesity,” the study said.
Children are also at risk for diabetes and obesity, especially with dietary changes and accessibility to junk food and carbonated drinks. “For South Asian children, 14 percent are obese. It’s lower than the general U.S. population, but yet there is a tendency to be obese,” Nihalani said.
The Indian American entrepreneur explained that in recent years the size of portions offered to children at schools has dramatically changed. “How we eat and the way we eat has changed. Obesity trends have increased in the last two decades. Portions (children) are offered and complex carbohydrates have drastically affected wave points. It won’t end, so this is going to be a very big issue," he asserted.
“One in six kids is obese in the United States and one in 10 kids is obese in the South Asian population,” he emphasized.
Nihalani hopes to focus in the future on addressing childhood obesity and set aside a portion of the profits in his current venture towards that goal.
“I want to focus on how to connect the two worlds on the healthcare front and the ones in developing countries — how to connect the knowledge and infrastructure here and how to integrate that for healthcare," he said.