Amongst fierce competition in the obesity space, Novo Nordisk has spent $1bn to acquire Inversago Pharma to shore up its weight loss treatment portfolio.

The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and will hit the billion-dollar mark, subject to developmental and commercial milestones.

The deal, which comes a month after Eli Lilly acquired Versanis and its lead weight loss candidate, bimagrumab, in a $1.9bn deal, will include Inversago’s lead asset INV-202, an oral cannabinoid receptor type-1 (CB1) inverse agonist. Novo Nordisk said it intends to use the candidate for patients with obesity and obesity-related complications.

Canada-based Inversago demonstrated the weight loss potential of the candidate in a Phase Ia trial by blocking the CB1 receptor, which plays an important role in appetite regulation and metabolism. INV-202 is currently in a Phase II trial for diabetic kidney disease (NCT05514548).

Prior to the 10 August announcement, Novo Nordisk also said it was lifting its annual sales forecast as it moved to tackle supply issues. The increased outlook for 2023 was down primarily to the soaring demand for its GLP-1-based diabetes and obesity treatments. The company did, however, state it will continue to restrict lower-dose strengths of its blockbuster drug Wegovy as it gradually increases its manufacturing capabilities to match the demand for the drug.

The acquisition of Inversago will add a novel mechanism of weight loss treatment to Novo Nordisk’s pipeline and could offer an alternative therapeutic solution to patients with obesity compared to current routes.

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Inversago CEO François Ravenelle said: “We are delighted to join forces with a global leader in the obesity and metabolic disorder space. We believe this combination will help unlock the full medical potential of our CB1 blockers and may one day expand treatment options for people living with metabolic syndrome, obesity and related complications.”

Novo Nordisk development executive vice-president Martin Holst Lange said: “This promising class of medicine pioneered by the Inversago team could lead to life-changing new treatment options for those living with a serious chronic disease and, in particular, may offer alternative or complementary solutions for people living with obesity.”