Novo Nordisk pays $60M for 3 preclinical assets as part of AI-powered cardio collab with Valo

Novo Nordisk may be enjoying a revenue boost courtesy of its next-gen diabetes and obesity drugs, but the company isn’t kicking back and counting the cash. Instead, the Danish Big Pharma is handing over $60 million to Valo Health in the hope that the Flagship Pioneering-founded company’s AI expertise can reproduce the same success in cardiovascular disease.

Valo’s AI-powered Opal Computational Platform combines real-world patient data with human tissue modeling and machine learning models to speed up the process of discovering small molecules for new therapies. The aim is to provide an end-to-end solution that can develop drugs from the discovery process through to regulatory approval.

Novo Nordisk is clearly impressed with Oval’s potential, and part of the $60 million in upfront and near-term milestone payments includes acquiring the rights to three preclinical drug discovery programs. The pharma has also pledged up to a total of $2.7 billion in milestone payments that would cover potentially 11 programs overall, with Valo also eligible for R&D funding and royalties on any approved drugs.

The Danish drugmaker expects a “close partnership” with Valo with potential for “activities that could span the entire drug discovery continuum.”

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning hold the promise to positively impact drug discovery and development, in particular enabling our vision of leveraging human datasets early in the process, which should lead to a better understanding of target biology,” said Novo Nordisk’s chief scientific officer Marcus Schindler, Ph.D., in the Sept. 25 release.

“Valo brings a differentiated and powerful approach to using these technologies on real-world human data to generate new insights and translate them into potential therapeutics for the benefit of patients suffering from cardiometabolic conditions,” Schindler added.

Valo CEO David Berry, M.D., Ph.D., said the collaboration will create “a unique opportunity” to deploy the Opal platform “at scale.”

Based in Boston, Valo was founded by Flagship in 2020. Since then, the company has scooped up a couple of biotechs in the form of protein-therapeutics-focused Courier and cardiovascular-focused TARA Biosystems. Plans for Valo to go public via a special purposed acquisition company merger with Khosla Ventures Acquisition fizzled out in 2021.

The company has already succeeded in getting its own candidates into the clinic, with a small mol­e­cule Rho kinase inhibitor called OPL-0401 making it to a phase 2 trial for non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

The Valo collaboration comes after a summer of dealmaking for Novo Nordisk, which acquired weight-loss-focused biotechs Inversago Pharma and Embark in quick succession.