Novo Nordisk cuts $1.3bn deal for KBP blood pressure drug

KBP Biosciences
KBP Biosciences

Novo Nordisk has agreed a $1.3 billion deal with Singapore’s KBP Biosciences to buy ocedurenone, a drug for uncontrolled hypertension that ties in with its ongoing efforts to expand beyond its core diabetes focus.

The orally-active drug, a non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist (nsMRA), is currently in the phase 3 trial CLARION-CKD in patients with uncontrolled hypertension – in other words, failing to respond to two or more blood pressure-lowering drugs – and advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Explaining the rationale for the deal, Martin Holst Lange, head of development at Novo Nordisk, noted that hypertension is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular events, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, and premature death.

“With its expected benefit-risk profile, ocedurenone has best-in-class potential in treating uncontrolled hypertension and could help address a major unmet medical need in people living with cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease,” he said.

That profile dovetails neatly with Novo Nordisk’s current focus on GLP-1 agonist-based therapies for two other chronic diseases – diabetes and obesity – that also raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and CKD.

In the last few weeks, the Danish pharma group has reported a pair of outcomes studies showing that its Wegovy and Ozempic drugs – both based on GLP-1 agonist semaglutide – can reduce cardiovascular and kidney disease outcomes, respectively, in obese and diabetic patients.

“This deal is closely aligned with our strategic focus on expanding from our core in diabetes into other serious chronic diseases, including through novel drug modalities,” Novo Nordisk said in a statement.

Ocedurenone (also known as KBP-5074) has been tested in nine clinical trials to date, including a phase 2b study called BLOCK-CKD that met its main objective, namely an improvement in systolic blood pressure (SBP) from baseline to day 84 in patients with stage 3b/4 CKD and uncontrolled hypertension.

CLARION-CKD has been started in the US, Europe, and Asia, with the first patients dosed at the end of 2021, and is due to recruit over 600 patients at more than 150 investigation sites. First results are due in 2024, according to the trial’s listing.

Novo Nordisk said it expects to initiate additional phase 3 trials in other cardiovascular and kidney disease indications in the coming years, aiming to “maximise the full potential of ocedurenone.” The company expects to close the acquisition, which it will fund with financial reserves, before the end of the year.

The deal comes shortly after the pharma group raised its sales and operating profit outlook for 2023 on the back of strong growth for Wegovy and Ozempic.