Novo Nordisk to exit inflammatory disease research

Novo Nordisk is to exit all research into inflammatory disorders following disappointing results for a rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

The Copenhagen-headquartered company has made the decision after ending development of its lead compound in the field, anti-IL20 (NN8226), a monoclonal antibody neutralising the interleukin 20 protein, which had been in development for rheumatoid arthritis.

“The discontinuation of anti-IL-20 delays our earliest possible entrance into the market for anti-inflammatory therapeutics to the late 2020s,” chief science officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen told Reuters via a statement.

Faced with huge competition and rapidly developing science in the rheumatoid arthritis field and other inflammatory diseases, the company decided it should withdraw entirely from the therapy area.

The company has a total of three other compounds in its clinical stage pipeline – the anti-IL21 drug NN8828, which is in phase II for Crohn’s disease and in phase I for systemic lupus erythematosus; anti-NKG2D molecule NN8555 in phase II for Crohn’s disease and an anti-C5ar-215 drug in phase I for rheumatoid arthritis.

The company has not disclosed what it plans to do with these pipeline assets, and whether or not they could be sold on to companies remaining in the therapy area.

Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen said the company would divert the resources back into its core research area of diabetes.

The company is a leader in insulin products, but is trying to widen its presence across the diabetes field, and says it will increase its efforts in diabetes prevention and treatment, obesity and diabetes complications.

Novo Nordisk says the decision to withdraw from inflammatory disease research will affect around 400 employees, but says it will be able to offer other internal positions to more than half of this number.

The discontinuation will also cost the firm 700 million Danish kroner ($123 million) in charges.

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