Next-gen Lilly obesity drug slashes weight in Innovent study—but is it enough to rival Mounjaro?

Innovent has strengthened its pitch for the Chinese obesity market with fresh phase 2 data. The update shows giving mazdutide, a molecule from Eli Lilly’s deep bench of obesity assets, at a higher dose dialed up the placebo-adjusted weight loss to 15.4% after 24 weeks.

China-based Innovent picked up the rights to the dual GLP-1/glucagon receptor agonist in its home market from Lilly in 2019 for an undisclosed sum. Early evidence of efficacy emerged last summer, when Innovent presented phase 2 data that linked the 6-mg dose of the molecule to 11.57% weight loss after 24 weeks in a phase 2 trial. Subjects in the placebo arm gained weight during the trial.

With Innovent seeing dose-dependent weight loss, and Lilly testing mazdutide at doses up to 10 mg in a dose-escalation trial, the Chinese biotech added a 9-mg, 80-subject cohort to its midphase study. The new data come from that cohort.

In addition to placebo-adjusted weight loss of 15.4%, Innovent reported mean reduction in body weight from baseline versus placebo of 14.7 kg and a breakdown of the proportion of people who passed certain weight loss thresholds. Most, 81.7%, of patients on mazdutide experienced at least 5% weight loss. More than one-fifth, 21.7%, of subjects lost 20% or more body weight over the 24-week study.

Innovent is continuing to track patients out to 48 weeks and is yet to analyze data on other secondary and exploratory endpoints. But, having found overall tolerability and safety at 9 mg to be “favorable,” the biotech has committed to taking the higher dose into phase 3. If Innovent replicates the data in pivotal trials, it could establish mazdutide as an option for the 160 million Chinese people with obesity. 

Other companies, including Lilly, are eyeing the same opportunity. Lilly completed a Chinese phase 3 trial of tirzepatide, now sold as Mounjaro in the U.S., late last year. Novo Nordisk won Chinese approval for semaglutide in 2021, although, with the authorization only covering diabetes, use in obesity is off-label in the country for now.

Lilly has the rights to develop mazdutide outside of China and continues to list the candidate in its phase 1 pipeline. However, with tirzepatide setting the bar high—weight loss after 24 weeks was similar to the Innovent result—and mazdutide one of two next-generation weight loss products in Lilly’s pipeline, it is unclear whether the Big Pharma will advance the program. Lilly was undecided as of last summer.