Novo Nordisk agrees $1.1bn takeover of RNA biotech Cardior

Novo Nordisk’s head of development Martin Holst Lange

Novo Nordisk’s head of development Martin Holst Lange

Novo Nordisk has reached an agreement to buy Germany’s Cardior Pharmaceuticals for €1.025 billion ($1.1 billion), adding expertise in RNA therapeutics and a heart failure therapy in mid-stage trials.

The Danish drugmaker, whose coffers have been swelled by rocketing sales of its diabetes and obesity therapies, said the deal is “an important step” in an ongoing effort to build its presence in cardiovascular diseases.

Hannover-based Cardior specialises in the discovery and development of therapeutics targeting non-coding RNA – sequences that don’t code for proteins, but which are thought to be important regulators of cellular processes.

The company says its candidates can act on several disease pathways simultaneously. In the case of its heart failure candidate CDR132L, that includes addressing the diminished contractility and overgrowth of heart muscle, fibrosis (scarring), and the formation of new blood vessels in the heart.

CDR132L is an oligonucleotide-based inhibitor directed against a non-coding RNA called miR-132, which has been designed to halt and reverse this cardiac remodelling process.

The drug is in the phase 2 HF-REVERT clinical trial, and in phase 1b testing showed an encouraging safety profile, as well as early signs of functional cardiac benefits, including a reduction in the heart failure biomarker NT-proBNP and a narrowing in QRS complex, an ECG reading that gives an indication of the contraction of large ventricular muscles.

Novo Nordisk said that, if the deal goes through, it plans to start a second phase 2 trial of CDR132L in a chronic heart failure population with cardiac hypertrophy – a condition that causes the walls of the heart muscle to become thick and stiff. It hopes to complete the transaction sometime in the second quarter of this year.

Novo Nordisk’s head of development, Martin Holst Lange, said the deal “will strengthen our pipeline of projects in cardiovascular disease where we already have ongoing programmes across all phases of clinical development.”

That pipeline is currently headed by once-monthly anti-IL-6 antibody ziltivekimab, in phase 3 trials for heart failure and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), and anti-amyloid therapy PRX004 in phase 2 for rare heart disease ATTR cardiomyopathy.

CDR132L “has a distinctive mode of action and potential to become a first-in-class therapy designed to halt or partially reverse the course of disease for people living with heart failure,” continued Dr Lange.

The Cardior deal comes just a few weeks after Novo Nordisk agreed a $1.46 billion partnership with US biotech Neomorph with a focus on cardiometabolic and rare diseases, a pair of cardiometabolic disease alliances with Omega Therapeutics and Cellarity, and an $11 billion deal to buy manufacturing capacity for obesity and diabetes therapies from Catalent (by way of holding company Novo Holdings).

25 March, 2024