AstraZeneca, Regeneron join on obesity drug discovery

By Jenni Spinner

- Last updated on GMT

(RapidEye/iStock via Getty Images Plus)
(RapidEye/iStock via Getty Images Plus)

Related tags Astrazeneca Regeneron Obesity Genetics

The two companies are collaborating to research, develop and launch new small-molecule drug candidates aimed at treating obesity and related comorbidities.

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has announced the launch of a collaboration with biotechnology company Regeneron, aimed at creating novel small-molecule therapies to treat obesity. According to the collaborators, their work will aim squarely at the GPR75 genetic target, which Regeneron researchers have discovered to be associated with obesity.

The two companies will partner on research, development, and commercialization of small-molecule compounds with the hopes of discovering safe, effective obesity treatments. AstraZeneca and Regeneron reportedly will split research and development costs down the middle, and equally share any future potential profits.

An article published in the journal Science earlier this month​ detailed how researchers discovered the target through sequencing of nearly 650,000 patients, then identifying individuals with rare protective mutations. Findings indicated people with at least one inactive copy of the GPR75 gene had lower body mass index (BMI) and, on average, tended to weigh about 12 lbs less and faced a 54% lower risk of obesity than those without the mutation.

Additionally, the Science report related that researchers found strong associations with improvements in diabetes parameters, including glucose lowering. It also shared that obesity and insulin resistance are key drivers in the development of type-2 diabetes, often leading to heart, kidney, and liver problems.

Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals R&D for AstraZeneca, said, “We are pleased to announce this important collaboration with Regeneron to identify small molecule modulators against GPR75, a newly identified target with genetic validation in metabolic disorders. Obesity and insulin resistance remain key drivers in the development of type-2 diabetes and areas of significant unmet medical need​.”

Regeneron president and chief scientific officer George Yancopoulos commented, “The next era of drug development is being fueled by important genetic findings that direct drug developers on how to deploy our toolkit of biologics, small molecules, and gene editing technologies. As experts on genetics and human biology, Regeneron is excited to join forces with the chemistry and small molecule leaders at AstraZeneca, as we seek to develop new medicines tackling the harmful and costly obesity epidemic​.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)​, global obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. In 2016, more than 1.9b adults around the world were overweight, with about a third of those people categorized as obese. The condition is an associated risk factor for numerous ailments, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.

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