Novo Nordisk moves to strengthen obesity efforts

by Stephen Riddle

After securing FDA approval for Wegovy last year, Novo Nordisk is strengthening its position in the obesity space through a collaboration with EraCal Therapeutics.

Under the joint research plan, the Danish giant will work with EraCal to identify novel drug targets relevant for food intake regulation and additional metabolic phenotypes.

Although specific details of the collaboration are yet to be released, EraCal has confirmed that the duo will utilise its phenotypic drug discovery platform to identify potential targets.

Central nervous system-controlled behaviour, such as food intake, is notoriously difficult to explore in vitro. However, this research will be conducted in zebrafish larvae, an emerging vertebrate drug discovery platform that will help scientists gain insight into the signalling pathways of potential new targets underlying the control of metabolic health.

“The zebrafish platform offers a unique opportunity for unbiased, high-throughput phenotypic screening of human-relevant peptide and small molecule libraries stemming from our drug discovery efforts within obesity,” says Dr Kirsten Raun, scientific vice president, global obesity and LD research, Novo Nordisk A/S.

Founded in 2018 as a spin-off of the University of Zurich and Harvard University, EraCal is already using this technology to develop a novel anti-obesity drug, named Era-379.

“Combining EraCal’s phenotypic screening platform with Novo Nordisk’s expertise within pharmaceutical peptides and metabolic diseases will contribute to the discovery of novel drug candidates for the treatment of obesity,” said Josua Jordi, CEO of EraCal. “We are excited to join forces with the world-leading pharmaceutical company in the cardiometabolic space and together lead innovation to transform the standard of care.”

Partnering with EraCal builds upon the success of Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy (semaglutide) chronic weight management drug, which was approved by the FDA in June 2021.

Securing FDA approval was a huge development for the obesity space, marking the first approval for a weight management drug to be granted by the regulator since 2014.

Originally approved to treat diabetes, the drug works by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake. The medication dose must be increased gradually over 16 to 20 weeks to 2.4 mg once weekly to reduce gastrointestinal side effects.

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