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BioAge raises $170M to back Phase 2-ready obesity drug

Dive Brief:

  • Biotechnology startup BioAge Labs has raised $170 million to support an experimental pill it plans to test alongside popular weight-loss drugs like Wegovy and Zepbound, the company announced Tuesday.
  • The Series D funding was led by Sofinnova Investments and includes participation from the venture arms of Amgen and Eli Lilly, both of which are heavily invested in obesity medicines. Andreessen Horowitz, which co-led a Series C round, was also involved.
  • BioAge’s drug is designed to mimic the behavior of a biological molecule that’s stimulated through exercise and potentially preserve muscle mass. Phase 1 study results showed that people who received the drug while on bed rest lost significantly less thigh muscle mass than those who got a placebo. 

Dive Insight:

BioAge, based in Richmond, California, was founded nearly a decade ago to combat age-related conditions, but has since changed direction to focus on obesity.

In 2021, it licensed what’s now its lead drug, called azelaprag, from Amgen. Its goal was initially to help presserve muscle mass in the elderly. But it’s now seen as a potential combination agent for the “incretin” drugs, like Wegovy and Zepbound, that can quickly help obese people lose weight. 

The strategy has put BioAge squarely in one of the pharmaceutical industry’s most lucrative chases. Some analysts have projected that the obesity market could top $100 billion each year, a prize that’s led large and small drugmakers to pile into the field, looking for ways to improve upon existing treatments. 

One of the current limitations is the concern that incretin medicines may cause people to lose lean body mass during rapid weight loss. BioAge says it has preclinical data suggesting that combining its medicine with incretins can boost while loss while improving body composition and muscle function. The drug stimulates a peptide called apelin, which is linked to muscle function and tends to decline in older people.

The Phase 2 study it’s planning will test that theory in humans. The trial, which should begin the middle of the year, will test azelaprag alongside Zepbound in people with obesity. Lilly is assisting BioAge with the study and providing the company with Zebpound as part of a collaboration.