Though known more for its oncology and diabetes pipeline, AstraZeneca is now entering a new phase in obesity with a research pact penned with Regeneron.
The pair will work on and, if approved, sell small molecule compounds directed against the GPR75 target, which they will focus in on obesity and “related co-morbidities.”
Financials of the deal were not disclosed, with the new partners saying simply that they will evenly split research and development costs and share equally in any future potential profits. Neither gave timelines for the clinical path expected with the program.
AZ is buying into the platform out of Regeneron’s Genetics Center, made up of rare genetic mutations in the GPR75 gene which it believes is associated with protection against obesity.
As published in Science earlier this year, this new target was found by sequencing nearly 650,000 people and identifying individuals with rare protective mutations. Those with at least one inactive copy of the GPR75 gene had lower BMI and, on average, tended to weigh around 12 pounds less and faced a 54% lower risk of obesity than those without the mutation.
In fact, Regeneron only reported preclinical data in July, showing how quickly AZ moved on the deal.
Together, AZ and Regeneron will now try and drug the problem and see if they can find a solution; no easy task in obesity, which has seen decades of setbacks in the clinic, and safety issues in the few approved drugs on the market.
One of the more recent bright spots has been from Novo Nordisk and its weight-loss med Saxenda, a GLP-1 agonist that’s also a diabetes drug, which in recent phase 3 trials showed one-third of patients taking the drug lost more than 20% of their body weight during the 68-week trial. The average participant lost more than 33 pounds, and many saw improvements in risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
This will likely form the new bar for future obesity drugs.
“The next era of medicine is being fueled by important genetics findings that direct drug developers on how to deploy our toolkit of biologics, small molecules and gene editing technologies in order to safely help patients in need,” said George Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Regeneron.
“As experts on genetics and human biology, Regeneron is excited to join forces with the chemistry and small molecule leaders at AstraZeneca, as we seek to develop new medicines tackling the harmful and costly obesity epidemic.”