By Alex Keown
Months after partnering with Sanofi on infectious diseases, Germany-based Evotec has formed another significant partnership with Novo Nordisk. The two companies will combine their forces to develop treatments for diabetes, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and other diseases.
Evotec said it will apply its ligand-based drug discovery design program to select “safe and efficacious products” that can then be used to address diabetes and associated morbidities. When the preclinical candidates are selected, Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk will use the German company’s INDiGo platform to take those preclinical candidates into the clinic.
Evotec Chief Operating Officer Mario Polywka said Novo Nordisk has a successful track record and proven leadership in developing treatments for diabetes and obesity.
“The integration of our industry-leading discovery and development platform with Novo Nordisk’s deep disease expertise will create a powerful combination that we hope will create a difference for patients with diabetes or obesity. We very much look forward to working with such an innovative partner,” Polywka said in a statement.
Marcus Schindler, head of global drug discovery at Novo Nordisk, touted Evotec’s work in small molecules. Schindler added that Novo is excited to work with Evotec on this endeavor.
“Novo Nordisk is confident that this will open up new possibilities in small molecule drug discovery and development targeting diabetes and obesity with the potential to make a difference for people living with these serious diseases,” Schindler said in a statement.
Novo has made some headway in its developmental efforts to treat diabetes and NASH. Earlier this week Novo reported that its diabetes drug Ozempic (semaglutide) hit the mark in a Phase II trial in the reduction of blood sugar levels and weight in adult patients with type 2 diabetes. Ozempic was approved by the FDA in December 2017 and was launched for commercialization in the U.S. in February as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. Also this week, Novo acquired Bristol, UK-based Ziylo and its glucose binding molecule platform, which will be used to develop glucose-responsive insulins.
In May the Danish company licensed an experimental chronic kidney disease (CKD) and diabetic kidney disease (DKD) treatment from San Diego-based Epigen Biosciences. The LPA1 receptor antagonist EPGN696 has shown preclinical efficacy in rodent models of kidney disease by targeting fibrosis, inflammation and growth factor responses.
Evotec has also made some strategic moves. In June the company signed off on the anti-infectives agreement with Sanofi. The French company licensed more than 10 infectious disease R&D assets, which include those in early-stage developmental programs, to Evotec in March. The German company plans to take the development lead using an open innovation platform at a facility in Lyons, France.
Evotec also has a long-running partnership with Celgene. The two companies inked a five-year neurodegeneration drug discovery and development deal in 2016.
Evotec did not disclose any financial details of the agreement with Novo Nordisk.