Pharma Giant Novo Nordisk To Buy Obesity Drug Startup Inversago
Novo Nordisk A/S (NYSE: NOVO), the Danish pharmaceuticals giant behind the blockbuster Wegovy and Ozempic weight loss drugs, is doubling…
Novo Nordisk A/S (NYSE: NOVO), the Danish pharmaceuticals giant behind the blockbuster Wegovy and Ozempic weight loss drugs, is doubling down on the sector with an acquisition. The company has struck a deal to buy Inversago, a Canadian startup developing drugs targeting obesity and other metabolic disorders.
Novo Nordisk will pay up to $1.08bn in cash, depending on specified targets that Inversago’s team meets. The company hasn’t disclosed the amount it paid upfront. Inversago employs just 22 people focused on developing drugs that block the cannabinoid CB1 receptor to reduce food intake and body weight. It’s a different approach to Novo’s blockbuster Wegovy and Ozempic drugs, which are designed to suppress appetite.
- Blocking CB1 receptors to reduce body weight isn’t a fully tried and tested method. Sanofi, a French pharma giant, won European approval in 2006 for a CB1 receptor blocker weight loss drug. But, regulators withdrew the approval three years later after studies linked the drug to doubling the risk of psychiatric disorders in patients.
- Since the suspension, scientists have continued to study the potential of CB1 receptor blockers to reduce body weight. François Ravenelle, a Canadian chemist and pharma veteran, founded Inversago in 2015 to explore this field. His company raised over $100mn from venture capitalists such as Amgen Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, and Genesys Capital.
Selling for $1.1bn represents a large win for Inversago’s investors and founding team. After cornering a lucrative share of the emerging weight loss drug market, Novo Nordisk is doubling down on a potentially new approach to achieve the same goal.
Ozempic brought in $8.6bn in revenue in 2022, compared to $5bn in 2021, fuelled by record demand from the U.S.A. Wegovy sales more than quadrupled to $900mn in 2022.
Record sales and profits have pushed Novo Nordisk’s market value to around 2.8 trillion Danish kroner ($420bn). That figure eclipses the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of Denmark, Novo’s home country, and puts the drugmaker closer to toppling luxury goods giant LVMH as Europe’s most valuable company.
- Novo expects the Inversago deal to close this year.