Looking to expand beyond diabetes, Novo Nordisk enlists Evotec in CKD pact worth up to $179M per program
Most of Novo Nordisk’s kidney work has come from diabetes, but eyeing an R&D expansion, the Danish giant is putting money down on a pact to target chronic kidney disease directly.
The new deal comes with an old partner: the German drug discovery company Evotec. Under the agreement, Evotec and Novo will collaborate on discovering and developing pre-clinical candidates across different modalities for CKD. Novo will then be in charge of clinical and commercial development for any promising approaches.
The companies were loose on specifics, but between upfront payments, research funding and milestones, Evotec can earn up to €150 million ($179 million) per project.
“Building on adjacencies within cardio-renal and metabolism, this collaboration will allow us to strengthen our efforts within kidney disease,” Novo’s cardio-renal and diabetes chief Karin Conde-Knape said in a statement, adding the work will be “on the basis of human relevant biology.”
Although the overwhelming majority of Novo’s roughly $20 billion in annual sales come from insulin and other diabetes and obesity drugs, the company has talked openly about its plans to expand into other areas over the next five years, including NASH, cardiovascular disease and CKD.
In 2018, Novo also licensed a CKD drug from San Diego’s Epigen for up to $200 million, although they signaled they would also develop the drug in diabetes-related conditions.
Novo and Evotec have collaborated since 2017, when Novo took a €90.3 million stake in the biotech. It’s proven to be a prudent investment, in euros and cents alone. Buoyed by a string of big-name partnerships and a few milestone payments, Evotec’s revenues have nearly tripled over that time period, from around €150 million in 2017 to €446 million last year. And their stock has risen from €6.87 to €22.09 today.
In 2018, Novo turned to Evotec to boost their early-stage research in the Big Pharma’s bread-and-butter areas: diabetes and obesity. That deal was built solely around small molecules, but the company has since invested heavily in both biologics and gene therapy, and the new collaboration is “modality agnostic.”
With its partners, Evotec has worked on a long list of disease areas — including anti-infective research with Bayer and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, neuroscience work with Bristol Myers Squibb, and immunology work with Galapagos and Pfizer — and kidney disease has been no exception.
The company has worked with Bayer on drugs for diabetics with kidney disease since 2016, as part of an up to $300 million deal. In 2017, Evotec started working with Cambridge University, the University of Bristol, and the Mario Negri Institute in Italy on what they called the NEPLEX project. It involves using micro-fluidics and iPSC stem to create a “nephron-on-a-chip” that can be used to test preclinical drugs.
Perhaps, most notably, the company last year teamed with Vifor Biopharma to launch NephThera, a joint venture that uses data from the massive UK kidney biobank study and Evotec’s bioinformatics platform to find new drugs.