Novo taps e-therapeutics for diabetes target discovery drive

Novo Nordisk
The deal furthers Novo’s attempts to position itself for growth in the face of a challenging diabetes market. (Novo Nordisk)

Novo Nordisk has enlisted e-therapeutics to support target discovery efforts at its recently-opened research center in Oxford, U.K. The collaboration will see e-therapeutics apply its platform for finding synergistic target combinations to a “specific area” of Type 2 diabetes.

E-therapeutics is built around a computer-based drug discovery platform that analyzes biological networks and the likely effect of drugs upon them. Rather than searching for single targets that alter disease pathways, e-therapeutics creates in-silico networks of protein interactions and looks for ways to disrupt the system that gives rise to the disease phenotype. This can yield multitarget strategies.

Novo, which like its peers is searching for an edge in the competitive diabetes market, has signed up to work with e-therapeutics on the application of the technology to Type 2 diabetes. The 12-month collaboration will seek to identify novel pathways and compounds for treating the disease.  

The collaboration will support the early target discovery research now underway at Novo’s R&D site in Oxford. Novo committed to investing £115 million ($146 million) into the site over a 10-year period at the start of 2017. The site is located near to the University of Oxford’s Target Discovery Institute, giving Novo a source of starting points for drugs, and the e-therapeutics deal could complement this resource.

Under the terms of the agreement, Novo will reimburse e-therapeutics for its contributions to the collaboration and get an option to license any relevant IP generated by the project. The commercial terms of future licensing agreements will be mutually decided down the line, if required. 

The outlay furthers Novo’s attempts to position itself for growth in the face of a challenging market for its core diabetes franchise. Some of the earlier attempts sought to move Novo beyond diabetes, but the e-therapeutics collaboration is intended to strengthen the Danish drugmaker’s position in its therapeutic heartland.

With e-therapeutics specializing in multitarget approaches, the deal echoes the way some of Novo’s rivals are trying to gain an edge in the diabetes sector. In May 2017, Sanofi tasked Exscientia with identifying pairs of targets involved in glucose control, NASH, weight management and other areas relevant to diabetics, plus generating bispecific small molecules capable of hitting both of them.