Viking sets ships toward phase 2 after obesity med passes early test

Viking Therapeutics was a stock market winner Tuesday after encouraging phase 1 data posted earlier in the day sent shares up nearly 70%. 

The company reported Tuesday that its dual GLP-1/GIP agonist, VK2735, was safe and effective in a phase 1 trial testing single and multiple ascending doses of the med. Viking found that patients treated with VK2735 in the multiple ascending dose cohort reported up to 6% reductions in mean body weight compared with placebo. Viking says it plans to launch a phase 2 trial for patients with obesity by the middle of the year. 

“Though subjects in this study were only exposed to higher doses for a limited time, no signs of plateau were observed," CEO Brian Lian, Ph.D., said in a release. “We look forward to exploring higher doses over a longer treatment window in the Phase 2 trial."

The largest amount of weight loss was seen in the highest dosing cohort, which maxed out at 10 mg and included six patients. Mean body weight in this group fell 7.8% compared with baseline and 6% compared with placebo. The most common side effects among all treated groups were mild nausea and decreased appetite. All six patients treated in the highest dosing group reported decreased appetite. 

Armed with the latest results and near-term plans to launch a follow-up phase 2 trial, the company shares skyrocketed nearly 70% from $9.12 to $15.44 per share. 

The wave of investor appetite comes as Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Ozempic, plus Lilly’s Mounjaro, have generated buzz in the commercial weight loss market. All three are GLP-1 agonists, while Mounjaro, like Viking's drug, is a GLP-1/GIP agonist. Novo's Ozempic and Lilly's Mounjaro are approved to treat Type 2 diabetes but have been used off label in obesity.

Although VK2735 spurred Viking’s latest Wall Street ascension, it’s not the most seasoned asset in the company’s pipeline. That title belongs to VK2809, a selective thyroid hormone receptor-beta inhibitor to tackle nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). A phase 2 study assessing VK2809 in patients with NASH or fibrosis has completed enrollment, and data are expected in the second quarter of the year.