May 30, 2024

The Novo Nordisk logo

The Novo Nordisk logo
Photo: Tom Little (Reuters)

The company behind blockbuster drugs Ozempic and Wegovy wants to keep the gravy train running. Expanding an earlier deal, it announced Thursday that it will pay U.S. company Metaphore Biotechnologies as much as $600 million to help it develop new medicines.

Metaphore, which emerged in 2021 from Flagship Pioneering, a biotechnology incubator, uses machine learning and molecular mimicry to develop new products. The company says that its signature MIMIC platform is designed to “systematically isolate” the spot where a medicine and its target interact “with single amino acid resolution, design a molecular mimic, and then optimize the molecule with fine-tuned therapeutic properties.”

Novo Nordisk, which has become Europe’s most valuable company and one of the most valuable companies in the world, has been so successful with its weight loss drugs that it’s noticeably boosting the GDP of its native Denmark all by itself. Despite shortages of those drugs due to immense customer demand, Novo Nordisk told investors last week that it is raising its sales and profit expectations for the year on the back of a strong quarter that saw it rake in $3.6 billion in net income on $9.4 billion in revenue.

Ozempic and Wegovy, which were originally marketed as a diabetes treatment but caught fire because they suppress patients’ appetites to the point that they lose weight, are so popular that Novo Nordisk chief Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said he was having some very interesting conversations about his firm’s products. “A couple of CEOs from, say, food companies have been calling me,” he told Bloomberg. “They are scared about it.”

Paul Biondi, a Flagship executive partner, expressed his excitement about the collaboration to come. “With three research collaborations underway with Novo Nordisk, we are demonstrating why this novel innovation supply chain partnership that draws on the breadth and depth of expertise and experience across Novo Nordisk, Pioneering Medicines, and Flagship’s bioplatform companies represents a bigger leap in how we partner in biopharmacy,” he said in a statement accompanying the news.

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