Novo Nordisk Boosts Obesity Business with $1B Inversago Buy

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

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

Novo Nordisk on Thursday put more than $1 billion on the line to buy Canadian biotech Inversago Pharma, further beefing up its already-formidable obesity and diabetes portfolio.

The acquisition agreement comes amid record sales of Novo’s weight-loss drug Wegovy (semaglutide), which during the second quarter earned over $1.1 billion, according to the company’s quarterly earnings report released Thursday. This represents a nearly 550% increase from its sales figures during the same period last year.

Novo did not break down how much it will pay up front for the Inversago buy but noted that the deal will reach its full value of nearly $1.08 billion “if certain development and commercial milestones are achieved.” The companies expect to close the buyout before the end of this year, pending regulatory clearance and other customary conditions.

Thursday’s acquisition deal will allow Novo to further boost its clinical development pipeline in obesity and related disorders, particularly using Inversago’s novel CB1 receptor-based therapies, which “could lead to life-changing new treatment options for those living with a serious chronic disease and, in particular, may offer alternative or complementary solutions for people living with obesity,” Martin Holst Lange, Novo executive vice president for development, said in a statement.

Inversago’s lead asset is INV-202, an oral blocker of the CB1 receptor, which is important for the regulation of metabolism and appetite. According to Novo’s announcement of the acquisition, CB1 is commonly found on peripheral tissues—including the kidneys and liver—and blocking this receptor in has been shown in preclinical studies to have therapeutic effects across a wide range cardiometabolic and fibrotic diseases.

Novo plans on assessing the potential of INV-202 and CB1 blockage in obesity and associated complications.

In June 2023, Inversago presented Phase Ib data for INV-202 during the 83rd American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions. Over 28 days of treatment, the investigational CB1 blocker was safe and well-tolerated in adults with signs of metabolic syndrome.

A post-hoc analysis also showed that treated participants saw clinically significant progressive weight loss with an average decline of 7.7 pounds, while placebo comparators gained an average of 1.2 pounds.

Once the acquisition is completed, INV-202 and Inversago’s pipeline of CB1 blockers will join Novo’s diabetes and obesity care business, which in the second quarter of 2023 brought in more than $1.5 billion and in the first half of the year raked in nearly $15 billion in revenues.

Aside from Wegovy, Novo’s other top-selling assets in this business segment include Type 2 diabetes drugs Ozempic and Rybelsus, which made more than $3.2 billion and nearly $590 million in the second quarter, respectively. Ozempic and Rybelsus share the active ingredient of Wegovy.

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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