Novo bags rights to UBE's preclinical NASH prospect

Novo Nordisk has picked up global rights to a preclinical nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) candidate from UBE Industries. The deal gives Novo control of UD-014, a small-molecule inhibitor of semicarbazide-sensitive amine oxidase/vascular adhesion protein-1 (SSAO/VAP-1).

UD-014 has flown under the radar so far. Japan’s UBE has published data linking (PDF) the drug to improved kidney function in rats and presented (PDF) a mechanistic explanation of potential value of inhibiting SSAO. In a notice setting out its desire to outlicense UD-014, UBE said the drug shows “compelling efficacy in a STAM mouse NASH model.”

UBE’s drug potentially gets at two mechanisms related to NASH. The preclinical data generated so far suggest inhibiting SSAO/VAP-1 may trigger an anti-inflammatory response and have an antioxidative effect on endothelial cells.

Novo has seen enough in the limited data to write a check for UD-014. The agreement features an upfront payment of undisclosed size, plus milestones and royalties. Once the project is transferred to Novo, the Danish drugmaker will handle further development of the candidate.

UD-014 will slot into a pipeline that already features a clinical-phase NASH program. Novo is running a phase 2 trial of semaglutide in NASH patients and working with Gilead Sciences on a mid-phase study of the GLP-1 analog in combination with firsocostat and cilofexor. Novo is also investing in internal research capabilities in a search for other NASH candidates.

The push into NASH reflects the links between the disease and Novo’s traditional focus on diabetes. By targeting diseases related to diabetes, Novo has a chance to apply its expertise to the discovery and development of molecules outside of the highly competitive, price-pressured field in which it made its name.