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Novo strikes another obesity drug deal

Dive Brief:

  • Novo Nordisk is adding yet another prospect to its obesity drug pipeline, this time from a biotech company spun out of Harvard University and Zurich University. · 
  • EraCal Therapeutics tests compounds in larval zebrafish in a bid to trigger behavioral changes related to appetite while minimizing other effects in the body. The Swiss startup says it’s seen early success in mice and may be able to produce a drug that helps people lose weight without the side effects sometimes seen with current treatments. ·
  • As part of the deal announced Tuesday, EraCal is eligible for payments worth as much as 235 million euros, or about $256 million, as well as royalties if a product reaches the market. The total includes an unspecified amount of money up front, as well as future payments tied to developmental and commercial milestones.

Dive Insight:

Hoping to stay on top of an obesity market revolutionized by its Ozempic and Wegovy drugs, Novo Nordisk is on a dealmaking spree. 

In August, Novo agreed to buy biotech Inversago Pharma in a takeover that may be worth as much as $1.1 billion and comes with a drug already in human testing. 

The Danish company is also snapping up preclinical assets, agreeing in August to buy Embark Biotech for 15 million euros and earlier this month inking development deals with two biotechnology startups

The license agreement with EraCal builds on a research collaboration announced in 2022. The new deal gives Novo Nordisk exclusive rights to develop and commercialize EraCal’s oral, small molecule program.

Novo Nordisk’s rivals are also building their pipelines with help from outside. In July, Eli Lilly agreed to pay as much as $1.9 billion for the privately held biotech Versanis, gaining an antibody under development to treat obesity. And Lilly’s venture arm invested in OrsoBio, a startup focused on obesity that raised $60 million in a Series A financing round last year. 

Meanwhile, Roche recently agreed to pay $2.7 billion up front for Carmot Therapeutics, which has three drugs in human testing for obesity. And AstraZeneca entered a licensing deal that could be worth as much as $2 billion for an experimental oral therapy from China’s Eccogene.