Metsera lands with $290m to take on obesity giants


Any company hoping to make headway in the market for obesity therapies will need deep pockets, so it’s an encouraging sign that start-up Metsera has launched with an impressive $290 million in financing.

Taking on established players like Novo Nordisk and Eli Lily will also need experienced leadership, and for that Metsera is drawing on the expertise of Clive Meanwell, former chief executive of The Medicines Company, who sold the company to Novartis for $9.7 billion.

Like Novo Nordisk and Lilly, Metsera has been set up to develop a pipeline of weight-loss therapies based on GLP-1 receptor agonism, with a focus on peptides and peptide-antibody conjugates.

Its lead product is an injectable GLP-1 therapy in early-stage clinical testing, which would compete with agents like Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 agonist Wegovy (semaglutide) and Lilly’s dual GLP-1/GIP agonist Zepbound (tirzepatide) if it reaches the market.

Details are scant at the moment, but Metsera has suggested its lead candidate could have a longer duration of action, offering less frequent injections than the current drugs.

Also in the pipeline is a dual amylin and calcitonin receptor agonist (DACRA) combined with the GLP-1 receptor agonist, a peptide that combines GLP-1, GIP, and glucagon agonism in a single molecule, as well as oral peptides with undisclosed mechanisms – two of which should be ready to start clinical testing in the coming months.

Clive Meanwell
Clive Meanwell

“Metsera was purpose-built over the last two years to get ahead of the innovation curve in one of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the history of biopharma,” said Meanwell, who describes the company’s pipeline as a “next-generation” of long-acting injectable and oral obesity therapies.

The candidates all stem from Metsera’s takeover of London, UK-based biotech Zihipp, a specialist in gastrointestinal hormones, with a proprietary library of more than 20,000 incretin and non-incretin peptides and monoclonal antibodies.

Zihipp’s head, Sir Stephen Bloom – who is also head of drug development, metabolism, digestion, and reproduction at Imperial College London – will lead the R&D effort at the new company.

The pipeline is “designed to unlock new treatment strategies through scalable, sustainable, and personalised interventions for weight loss, weight maintenance, and disease prevention,” said Prof Bloom. The aim is to use combinations of injectable and oral peptides to “establish a cycle of continuous and responsive innovation to address a growing worldwide obesity crisis,” he added.

Metsera was incubated by Population Health Partners – which was founded by Meanwell in 2020 – and ARCH Venture Partners, with the initial financing coming from a syndicate of leading healthcare investors, including F-Prime Capital, GV, Mubadala Capital, Newpath Partners, and SoftBank Vision Fund 2.