AstraZeneca joins obesity biotech SixPeaks at basecamp with $80M for buyout option

The obesity business is cutthroat these days. AstraZeneca is taking no chances on missing out on the next big thing. The U.K. pharma is one of the first investors in a new biotech emerging today with $110 million to develop new therapies for healthy weight loss.

Based in Switzerland, the aptly named SixPeaks Bio broke stealth Wednesday, announcing $30 million in series A funding. The financing round was led by founding investor Versant Ventures, a venture capital company with $5.5 billion under management for biotech company building.

AstraZeneca also participated in the series A, but beyond that, has committed $80 million in capital, both upfront and in near-term payments. That extra bump of support provides the U.K. pharma with an option to acquire SixPeaks down the road once the biotech reaches an investigational new drug filing.

SixPeaks came to be in 2022 out of Versant’s Ridgeline Discovery Engine in the Basel Technology Park. The company is creating an activin IIA/B receptor antibody that aims to spur weight loss while preserving skeletal muscle mass.

That’s been a key challenge with the mega-blockbuster weight loss drugs like Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Zepbound; while they help patients lose weight, they also lead to muscle loss. Many biotechs and Big Pharmas are now at work trying to make the weight loss healthier with next-gen approaches that keep muscle mass intact.

SixPeaks is the latest biotech to jump on the bandwagon. Preclinical data from mice has shown that the company’s lead compound had “best-in-class” efficacy while preserving muscle mass alone and in combination with GLP-1 agonists.

AstraZeneca has been a late entrant to the obesity space, well behind Novo and Lilly which both have approved—and very successful—therapies. But AstraZeneca has a few stakes in the climb beyond this new SixPeaks collaboration, including a phase 1 amylin analogue called AZD-6234, which kicked off a trial in the fourth quarter of 2022.