Novo Nordisk licenses kidney disease drug from Epigen

Novo Nordisk
The deal comes as Novo seeks to lessen its reliance on its core diabetes franchise. (Novo Nordisk)

Novo Nordisk has picked up the worldwide rights to a kidney disease drug in development at Epigen. The agreement gives Novo control of orally available LPA1 receptor antagonist EPGN696 in exchange for up to $200 million in upfront and milestone payments.

Research has linked LPA, a bioactive mediator that acts via GPCRs, to fibrosis. Certain organs produce more LPA when fibrotic, and multiple preclinical studies suggest the receptor is an interesting target. The research has attracted the attention of companies including Bristol-Myers Squibb—which gained an LPA drug in its $325 million takeover of Amira Pharmaceuticals—and now Novo.

Denmark’s Novo is paying an upfront fee that, given the preclinical nature of the program, probably makes up a small slice of the $200 million total deal size to enter the sector. That done, Novo will work with Epigen to develop EPGN696 in diabetic kidney disease and other indications.

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The release put out by Epigen states Novo has licensed the drug in “diabetic and chronic kidney disease and other chronic diseases associated with metabolic syndrome.”

Novo’s statement focused on the use of the drug in diabetic kidney disease, with exploration of its use in chronic kidney disease to follow. But it potentially has applications in multiple areas of interest to the company. Epigen has previously discussed the potential for EPGN696 to help patients with NASH, a focus of Novo’s pipeline, and IPF.

“This is an innovative project strengthening our efforts within this strategically important area for Novo Nordisk,” Marcus Schindler, SVP of global drug discovery at Novo, said in a statement.

The deal comes as Novo seeks to lessen its reliance on its core diabetes franchise, which faces an array of pressures. Since Sanofi outbid it for Ablynx, Novo has confirmed its continued interest in M&A while boosting its pipeline through deals with EpiDestiny, Biolamina and now Epigen.