Diabetes drug giant Novo Nordisk has reached a $725 million deal to acquire Corvidia Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotech developing treatments for disorders affecting the heart and the kidneys.
The upfront payment due to Corvidia shareholders is cash. According to the terms of the agreement, Denmark-based Novo Nordisk (NASDAQ: NVO) could be on the hook for about three times that much depending on regulatory and sales milestones achieved by the Corvidia drugs. Details of those milestones, which could eventually increase Corvidia’s haul to as much as $2.1 billion, were not specified.
Corvidia’s lead drug candidate, ziltivekimab, is being developed as a therapy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems in chronic kidney disease patients who have atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (narrowing of the arteries) and inflammation. The Corvidia drug is an antibody that targets interleukin-6 (IL-6), a protein linked to the cholesterol plaque build-up on the inner walls of the arteries that causes this narrowing. Atherosclerosis patients face a higher risk of a heart attack or other serious problems. Waltham, MA-based Corvidia is currently testing the once-a-month injection in a Phase 2b clinical trial designed to find the best dose to test in Phase 3.
Corvidia has a second compound in its pipeline. COR-003 is a peptide in development for reducing triglyceride levels in the blood of patients hospitalized with acute pancreatitis, a sudden inflammation of the pancreas for which no FDA-approved therapies exist. In January, findings from Corvidia’s preclinical research into that compound were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Novo Nordisk’s top seller is Novolog, an insulin product that generated more than 18 billion Danish krone (about $2.7 billion) in 2019 sales, according to the company’s annual report. But patents protecting Novolog have expired, and the company has been looking for ways to diversify its revenue. Late last year, Novo Nordisk acquired global rights to a preclinical compound from Ube Industries that is being developed as a potential treatment for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a fatty liver disease often shortened to NASH.
Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, executive vice president and chief science officer of Novo Nordisk, said in a prepared statement that Corvidia fits the Danish company’s strategy to expand to cardiometabolic diseases that complement its core diabetes and obesity products.
Corvidia is an AstraZeneca (NASDAQ: AZN) spinout, founded in 2015 with seed financing from French venture capital firm Sofinnova Partners. That firm is the startup’s largest shareholder. Other investors that joined later include Apple Tree Partners, AstraZeneca, Venrock, Andera, Cormorant Asset Management, HBM Healthcare Investments, Fresenius Medical Care Ventures, and Venrock’s growth fund, Healthcare Capital Partners.