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Bariatric Surgery

Metabolic Applied Research Strategy (MARS)

Innovation in fighting obesity through MARS

As part of Ethicon's efforts to help resolve the obesity epidemic, the company has made a multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment to support basic and applied research into obesity and other metabolic diseases through its Metabolic Applied Research Strategy (MARS).

MARS represents a comprehensive approach to developing an understanding of the mechanisms that drive the significant improvements in health associated with metabolic and bariatric surgery. Primarily leveraging preclinical models of these surgeries, the approach of MARS is to systematically deconstruct these procedures to understand how they work. This improved understanding provides insights into predictors of procedure outcomes and allows for the rapid and efficient testing of new treatment concepts in the preclinical setting. Successful therapies and predictors of success are then validated through clinical trials as we seek to improve existing therapies, as well as invent new therapies for patients suffering from obesity and metabolic diseases.

MARS research collaborations

In collaboration with parent company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and members from various J&J business units, Ethicon is making substantial investments in MARS research collaborations that already have made significant strides in identifying innovative, less invasive and less expensive solutions.

The Ethicon MARS Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), established in 2007, includes thought-leading surgeons, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, physiologists and other researchers from around the world. The company has focused its multi-year agreement on two premier centers that have the ability to perform basic and translational research:

  • The Metabolic Diseases Institute (MDI) at the University of Cincinnati
  • The Obesity, Metabolic & Nutrition Institute (OMNI) at The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)

These experts are committed to understanding the physiological changes that can occur after metabolic and bariatric surgery – such as the improvement in type 2 diabetes. Through MARS, Ethicon seeks to understand what makes metabolic and bariatric surgery effective, while seeking to identify patients who could benefit most from specific procedures.

Ethicon has started to share its early scientific findings from MARS with surgeons and allied health professionals. In particular, we have focused the educational content on the new understanding of the biology of obesity and the physiological impact of metabolic and bariatric surgery.

Ethicon is the primary supporter of a clinical trial, the STAMPEDE (Surgical Treatment And Medications Potentially Eradicate Diabetes Efficiently) Trial, designed to compare intensive medical therapy with surgical treatment using gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy (combined with intensive medical therapy) as a means to improve glycemic control in obese patients with T2DM. In March 2012, 1-year data showed "bariatric surgery represents a potentially useful strategy for management of uncontrolled T2DM, capable of completely eliminating the need for diabetes medications in some patients and a marked reduction in need for drug treatment in others."112

Download the STAMPEDE Abstract.

In 2010, Ethicon donated $500,000 in funding to support multiple, three-year research grants through the American Diabetes Association. The research grants support the investigation of the specific mechanistic effects of bariatric surgery on diabetes. They also support translational research to improve the clinical understanding of various metabolic and bariatric procedures as potential treatment options for people with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

At the June 2011 American Diabetes Association Conference in San Diego, Ethicon hosted a media event that featured the MARS initiative and the beneficial effects of metabolic and bariatric surgery on type 2 diabetes. Our expert panel consisted of Dr. Phil Schauer, Dr. Lee Kaplan and Dr. Harold Leibowitz.

MARS projects underway

As a result of the significant insights generated through MARS research, several projects are in the early stages of the development pipeline in three areas of focus:

  • Weight Loss – Therapies for which the targeted effect is to regulate metabolism
  • Diabetes – Therapies that seek to improve obesity related comorbidities, such as T2DM, through physiological manipulation
  • Patient Decision Aids – Decision tools that allow for informed discussions on likely outcomes, leading to higher patient satisfaction

Download a list of research publications resulting from MARS work to date.