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Today, we talk about two players that want to join the obesity market with updates to the GLP-1 class: Amgen and Regeneron. Also, a draft bill in Congress would restrict U.S. involvement with Chinese biotechs.
The need-to-know this morning
- The investment arm of Novo Nordisk’s parent foundation is buying drug manufacturer Catalent in a $16.5 billion deal, an acquisition that will give Novo additional sites as it builds up production of its booming obesity and diabetes drugs.
- BridgeBio Pharma said the FDA accepted its marketing application for acoramidis to treat patients with the heart disease known as ATTR-CM. An approval decision is expected on or before Nov. 29.
- Vertex Pharmaceuticals reports fourth quarter and 2023 earnings today, after market close. Eli Lilly reports earnings tomorrow morning.
Amgen wants experimental obesity drug to be tapered
Amgen wants to create an obesity drug that patients can wean over time instead of being taken at the same dose in perpetuity. Early data suggest its drug candidate, called MariTide, might fit the bill and offer longer-lasting weight loss effects than obesity drugs on the market like Wegovy and Zepbound.
An ongoing Phase 2 trial will test whether MariTide can be effective if it begins with a more intensive regimen, but is then transitioned to milder dosing. Amgen’s mechanism seems contradictory to that of Zepbound and other GLP-1 agonists. It activates GLP-1 by blocking the receptors of the GIP hormone hormone. It did well in a Phase 1 study, in which the eight patients lost on average 14.5% of their weight over about three months.
New draft bill restricting Chinese biotechs
A new congressional bill would prevent federal agencies from contracting with a number of Chinese biotech companies, including WuXi AppTec, BGI Group, and Complete Genomics. It would also prevent companies from contracting with anyone who uses their services.
News of the bill has spooked investors, leading to a large-scale sell-off of shares in various biotech companies after an analyst call organized by BofA Global Research. The bill, which is aimed partly at protecting consumer genetic data, sent shares of WuXi AppTec down 21.2% on Friday.
“Many investors are parking money and hoping to hear some turnaround scenarios … but they might get a bit disappointed,” a BofA meeting note said. China’s blue-chip CSI 300 Index dropped 1.2%, and the Hang Seng Hong Kong-listed Biotech Index fell 5%.
That said, the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), hit a snag in Senate this week, Reuters writes, and failed to move out of committee as expected. A companion bill in the House has also been proposed by Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher (Wisc.).
ARCH raising another $3 billion fund
ARCH Venture Partners, one of the top biotech investment firms, is raising a $3 billion new fund. It filed paperwork with the SEC this week for its 13th fund.
The company raised approximately the same amount in its last fundraise, which was in 2022. ARCH has invested in more than 600 companies over the past three decades. The firm has focused largely on startups that target cancer, manufacturing, and psychiatric conditions.
This is the third time it has raised a mega-fund — a pool of $1 billion or more of private capital to invest in startups.
Regeneron is interested in obesity
Although existing obesity drugs are wildly effective, Regeneron CSO George Yancopoulos believes there’s still a lot of opportunity in the market, FierceBiotech reports. Yancopoulos wants to create a combo approach from Regeneron’s pipeline, adding trevogrumab or garetosmab to semaglutide in a bid to improve the way a patient loses weight.
“Despite all the enthusiasm surrounding GLP-1 agonists for obesity, it has been increasingly recognized that the profound weight loss is accompanied by substantial muscle loss, accounting for as much as 40% of the weight loss,” Yancopoulos said during an earnings call Friday. “This potentially irretrievable muscle loss can be catastrophic for patients. It may even lead to major public health concerns in the future.”
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