AstraZeneca weighs in again on obesity market with $80m funding for SixPeaks

AstraZeneca has the option to acquire SixPeaks Bio in the next two years if the recently launched firm’s bispecific antibody for weight loss proves successful.

Millie Nelson, Editor

May 23, 2024

2 Min Read

In a Series A financing round led by founding investor Versant Ventures, obesity drug developer SixPeaks has secured $30 million in funding. Beyond this, Anglo-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca will provide further financing worth up to $80 million over a two-year period. In return, the firm gains certain exclusive rights to acquire SixPeaks.

No specific financial details concerning the price of a future acquisition has been disclosed. However, they confirmed the deal will happen at the time of submitting an Investigational New Drug (IND) application for SixPeak’s lead antibody.

“With the number of people living with both cardiometabolic conditions and obesity today already over one billion, there is a need for continued innovation and next generation therapeutic options. This agreement augments our existing weight management programs, and we look forward to working in collaboration with SixPeaks to advance the lead antibody as a potential novel therapeutic option,” said Sharon Barr, EVP of BioPharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca.

Basel, Switzerland-based firm SixPeaks has made use of internal biologics capabilities from Versant’s Ridgeline Discovery Engine to develop an activin IIA/B receptor antibody to preserve skeletal muscle mass in humans. The antibody is expected to tackle the common side effect of muscle loss that arises when using glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) drugs.

SixPeaks said preclinical studies have shown enhanced potency, reduced off-target binding compared with competing antibodies, biophysical properties, and pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics. Additionally, the company’s lead molecules have showcased efficacy for muscle mass preservation as a single agent and when combined with GLP-1 agonists.  

Furthermore, the recently launched firm has conjugated its activin receptor IIA/B antibody with a GLP-1 peptide in a bid to provide “maximal GLP-1 agonist-mediated weight loss while preserving muscle.” The platform is being advanced to develop various other incretin-based molecules for weight management.

GLP-1 takeover

Of late, the industry has witnessed a boom in the obesity drug market. With the modality expected to generate $102 billion by 2030, various players in the sector have expressed their gratitude to those who stayed in the space.

Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk currently leads the way with its GLP-1 drugs Ozempic and Wegovy (both semaglutide) bringing in a total of $18.3 billion for the full-year 2023. Additionally, Eli Lilly’s diabetes drug Mounjaro (tirzepatide), pulled in over $5 billion for the company last year, and its approved obesity drug Zepbound (also tirzepatide) is anticipated to drive revenues in the future.

As such, there has been a wave of investment in the GLP-1 space. Over the past few months, Big Pharma companies such as Roche and AstraZeneca have shifted their focus to the modality – the former bought Carmot Therapeutics for $2.7 billion, while the latter licensed a candidate from Eccogene in November 2023.

About the Author(s)

Millie Nelson

Editor, BioProcess Insider

Journalist covering global biopharmaceutical manufacturing and processing news and host of the Voices of Biotech podcast.

I am currently living and working in London but I grew up in Lincolnshire (UK) and studied in Newcastle (UK).

Got a story? Feel free to email me at [email protected]

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