Novo Deepens Obesity, MASH Expertise in Deals Worth $1B with Two Flagship Biotechs

Novo Nordisk_iStock, hapabapa

Pictured: Novo Nordisk's building in California/iStock, hapabapa

Novo Nordisk on Thursday announced that it is entering into two separate research collaborations, potentially worth up to $1 billion total, with Flagship Pioneering-backed biotech companies Omega Therapeutics and Cellarity to develop novel therapies for cardiometabolic conditions.

Novo will work with Omega on a novel treatment approach to obesity, developing an epigenomic controller that can boost metabolic activity. With Cellarity, the Danish drugmaker will focus on metabolic dysfunction-associated steatohepatitis (MASH), identifying its key biological drivers and developing a small molecule drug against the disease.

Thursday’s partnerships will help Novo “complement our internal research with external innovation” and will allow the company to “explore bold new treatment strategies with the potential to make a significant impact for people living with obesity or MASH,” CSO Marcus Schindler said in a statement.

Omega and Cellarity are the first two Flagship-founded bioplatform companies that Novo is enlisting under its May 2022 collaboration with the biotech incubator. The companies will collaboratively advance their respective programs through preclinical development, after which Novo will have the option to take them into clinical testing.

Novo will reimburse Cellarity and Omega for their R&D costs. Each agreement is potentially worth up to $532 million in upfront, development and commercial milestones, plus tiered royalties on annual net sales of any licensed pharmaceutical product.

“Both companies offer differentiated and novel approaches, including Omega’s expertise in controlled epigenomic modulation and Cellarity’s deep insights into applying human data and artificial intelligence to the development of new medicines,” Schindler said in a statement.

Omega will leverage its precision epigenomics platform to take a novel approach to obesity. While the industry has so far been focused on regulating appetite, Omega will harness its epigenomic controllers—programmable mRNA-based therapies—to boost thermogenesis, a natural metabolic function that refers to the body’s innate ability to produce heat within tissues.

The Cellarity partnership will tap the company’s proprietary AI models and its whole-of-cell approach to better understand MASH and its key cellular dysfunctions and disease signatures. The hope is that a firmer grasp on the disease will allow for more effectively designed drugs.

Thursday’s research collaboration will help Novo solidify its dominant position in the cardiometabolic diseases market and strengthen its portfolio in the space, anchored by its top-selling weight-loss therapy Wegovy (semaglutide). Together with Lilly’s Zepbound (tirzepatide), Wegovy is poised to capture a large majority of the obesity market, which some analysts say could reach up to $200 billion in value in the coming years.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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