Obesity Fighting Success Fuels Novo Bet on Gene-Editing Tech

LONDON (Reuters) – Capitalising on strong demand for its obesity therapies, Novo Nordisk’s growing appetite for deals has fuelled a bet on a U.S. gene-editing company called Life Edit Therapeutics.

The Danish drugmaker’s collaboration with Durham, North Carolina-based Life Edit Therapeutics – owned by ElevateBio, a cell and gene therapy company in Waltham – is focused on up to seven programs for rare genetic disorders as well as cardiometabolic diseases.

At the heart of the tie-up is Life Edit’s technology, called base editing, which is designed to make precise changes to the human genome by tweaking one base – or letter – into a different one without affecting other letters.

Single-letter mistakes, called point mutations, can give rise to genetic diseases.

The Novo deal comes as the company basks in the success of its incredibly popular weight-loss drug Wegovy, for which demand has far outstripped supply.

Earlier this month, the company said it was on the prowl for deals largely in areas it has already invested in, including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and gene therapies.

Novo did not disclose exactly which disease areas it is hoping to target with Life Edit, or the size of the upfront cash payment it has made in the company. But it is on the hook for millions in potential milestone payments, in addition to royalties.

It has also made equity investment in ElevateBio as part of its $401 million series D financing round.

The Novo collaboration comes at the earliest stages of development – it remains unclear if and when any Life Edit program might be ready for testing in clinical trials.

“We’re definitely talking about years and not months,” said ElevateBio cofounder and CEO David Hallal.

Life Edit – which in February announced a partnership with COVID-vaccine maker Moderna – is part of a growing crop of biotech companies working on a range of gene-editing tools, including silencing disease-causing genes, making precise tweaks to DNA to address genetic flaws, or inserting new genes to treat disease.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in London; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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