Novo Nordisk to explore obesity risk tests with Digbi Health pilot project

Novo Nordisk will begin a pilot project to evaluate how genomic and microbiome-based tests can be used to help prevent obesity. The work is part of a tie-up with Digbi Health and comes as Novo's Wegovy franchise is expected to keep up its quick growth

The obesity medication was approved in June 2021. Earlier this year, the drugmaker doubled its revenue target for Wegovy, saying it expects to bring in more than $3.7 billion in sales by 2025.

By working with Digbi and the startup’s digital screening offerings, the pilot will explore how a person’s genes, proteins, gut bacteria and lifestyle data can help predict whether they have a high or low risk of obesity as well as the range of cardiac and metabolic conditions that may come with it.

Obesity-related risks vary significantly by gender and ancestry, and, according to the companies, most weight management programs do not incorporate information from genetics or the gut microbiome.

As part of the pilot, Digbi—which offers diagnostic tests and artificial-intelligence-powered coaching programs—has enrolled in Novo Nordisk’s Global Prevention Accelerator Program, which launched last year with a special focus on worldwide obesity. With funding from the Big Pharma, Digbi aims to show its digital care offerings can scale up to reach large numbers of people while also being adaptable for local populations.

The companies said they plan to complete the initial steps of the pilot by the end of September before expanding Digbi’s platform to demonstrate large-scale validation through the help of Digbi’s user base.

Novo’s accelerator had previously selected Ksana Health, developer of the remote measurement platform Vira, to offer an objective system for tracking behavior patterns and forming personalized care plans.

The Danish drugmaker also expanded its research into obesity this year through a collaboration with EraCal Therapeutics, a Swiss biotech that is developing new treatments aimed at food intake regulation, suppressing appetite and other characteristics of metabolism. 

Also known as semaglutide, Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy was first approved for treating diabetes. It received a new green light in obesity alongside diet and exercise last year based on phase 3 trial data showing it helped one-third of treated patients lose more than 20% of their body weight over about a year and a half. Patients without Type 2 diabetes lost 17% to 18% of their weight on average.