Nutritionist calculating body mass index of woman for obesity treatment in a clinic room. Current research shows the gut microbiome may also influence risk for obesity.
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Fresh off the news that their weight loss drug semaglutide reduces cardiovascular events, Novo Nordisk has acquired yet another obesity-focused company—Embark Biotech, which is a spin-out from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR).  Earlier this month, Novo acquired obesity drug developer Inversago for up to $1.075B.

Novo and Embark signed a three-year research and development collaboration that provides Novo Nordisk with the option to acquire selected Embark assets based across several indications, including obesity and type 2 diabetes. Embark says its lead program targets obesity and other cardiometabolic diseases.

The deal gives Novo full rights to develop and commercialize the lead program, while the Embark shareholders will receive 15 million Euro in an upfront cash payment and are eligible to receive potential development, regulatory, and commercial milestones of up to 456 million Euro.

Zach Gerhart-Hines, CTO at Embark Laboratories commented, “There is a clear strategic fit between the novel biology we have discovered and Novo Nordisk’s experience and focus on developing new drugs in the cardiometabolic space. We are thrilled to pass on the baton for our lead metabolic program to Novo Nordisk.”

Embark was spun out in 2017 spin-out based on work at University of Copenhagen, where associate professor Zach Gerhart-Hines, together with then postdoctoral fellow Jakob Bondo Hansen and professor Thue W. Schwartz, discovered a novel target that suppresses appetite, increases energy expenditure, and enhances insulin sensitivity. Development of the target was initiated via an early collaboration with Novo Nordisk.

Earlier this month Novo announced results from the Semaglutide Effects on Heart Disease and Stroke in Patients with Overweight or Obesity (SELECT) trial. The double-blinded trial compared subcutaneous once-weekly semaglutide (Wegovy) 2.4 mg with placebo as an adjunct to standard of care for prevention of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACEs) over a period of up to five years.

Semaglutide (Wegovy) is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that mimics the hormone GLP-1, which targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake.

The trial, which was started in 2018, enrolled 17,604 adults aged 45 years or older with overweight or obesity and established cardiovascular disease (CVD) with no prior history of diabetes. The trial was conducted in 41 countries at more than 800 investigator sites. It achieved its primary objective by demonstrating a statistically significant and superior reduction in MACE of 20% for people treated with semaglutide 2.4 mg compared to placebo.

Semaglutide was first approved by the FDA in June 2021 for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. It’s used in addition to a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity.

Brian Finan, VP of obesity research at Novo Nordisk, said, “Novo Nordisk has been engaged in obesity research for 25 years, and we continuously search for new ways to address this serious chronic disease. We are excited about the opportunity to advance Embark Biotech’s lead program and look forward to co-creating novel treatments for cardiometabolic diseases with Embark Laboratories to complement our in-house R&D.”

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