Close this search box.

What do Parkinson’s and obesity have in common?

Want to stay on top of the science and politics driving biotech today? Sign up to get our biotech newsletter in your inbox.

Good morning. STAT is running a promo this week — you can get 40% off an annual subscription with the discount code STAT40. Learn more here.


Bernie amps up the pressure on Novo

After Senate health committee chair Bernie Sanders launched an investigation into Novo Nordisk’s pricing of Ozempic and Wegovy in April, he’s now called a vote to subpoena the chief of the company’s U.S. division.

Sanders said the committee has repeatedly tried to schedule Novo’s voluntary appearance at a hearing to no avail. Meanwhile, Novo said in a statement to STAT that it has offered several dates for a hearing.

If history is any indicator, there’s a good chance the committee won’t actually vote on the subpoena — it’s primarily a pressure tactic to try to compel Novo to cooperate. Still, it’s an escalation in Sanders’ campaign to browbeat companies into lowering patients’ drug costs.


Read more.

Verily joins in on the GLP-1 gold rush

Google health tech spinout Verily said it’s phasing out its chronic disease management app and transitioning to a new, “evolved” product called Lightpath, which will offer GLP-1 drug prescriptions.

Verily has been on a turbulent journey. It started out with moonshot ideas like wristbands that would detect cancer, but searching for a new direction amid turnover among employees and executives, it’s now turning to the same idea that many other health tech platforms have already caught on to — prescribing GLP-1s.

Read more from STAT’s Brittany Trang.

Pfizer to partner with Flagship on obesity drugs

Flagship and one of the companies it founded, ProFound Therapeutics, said today they’ve agreed to identify new obesity treatments in a collaboration with Pfizer.

This is part of a previously announced deal in which Flagship and Pfizer would each invest $50 million to develop 10 drug programs. They said at the time that Pfizer will have an option to acquire each selected program, and Flagship and its companies will be eligible to receive up to $700 million in milestones and royalties for each successfully commercialized program.

The collaboration show Pfizer’s renewed efforts to join the booming obesity market after it hit several roadblocks in trying to develop its own medications to rival Novo and Lilly. Last year, it stopped development of a once-daily and twice-daily GLP-1 pill.

What do Parkinson’s and obesity have in common?

Boston-based NodThera is developing a molecule to treat both Parkinson’s and obesity, and it’s doing so by tamping down on inflammation.

NodThera is studying an NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitor and this morning, it reported that in a Phase 1b/2a study of people with obesity and elevated CRP (a measure of inflammation), the treatment group experienced “highly statistically significant and rapid CRP reduction.”

Details of the results are scant, but the company also said that more than 75% of people in the treatment group had a CRP level of less than 2mg/L at 28 days, compared with less than 25% of people in the placebo group.

It’s yet to be seen how this treatment actually fares in cutting weight and treating Parkinson’s; NodThera is planning Phase 2 studies in those indications. But in the meantime, researchers elsewhere have been looking at the overlap between the two diseases in other contexts.

Early data show that the widely popular class of GLP-1 obesity drugs may also be able to help with Parkinson’s. Scientists hypothesize that these treatments may provide benefit by reducing inflammation and protecting neurons from dying.

Earlier this year, researchers in France reported that Parkinson’s patients taking an early GLP-1 drug called lixisenatide experienced no worsening of motor symptoms over a year, in contrast to patients on placebo who did.

Novo Nordisk itself has expressed support for the theory that GLP-1 drugs provide benefit by reducing inflammation. Its head of development previously told STAT that follow-up analysis on the landmark Wegovy cardiovascular trial showed that inflammation appears to play an important role in Wegovy’s heart benefit.

More reads

  • Americans are hiring people in the Philippines to help them find Adderall, 404 Media
  • How personalized cancer vaccines could keep tumors from coming back, Nature
  • NIH wanted to make cancer research more diverse. The effort turned out to be a costly failure, STAT
  • Opinion: The J&J lawsuit should be a wakeup call to the PBM industry — and to companies everywhere, STAT