AstraZeneca has fortified its participation in the GLP-1 agonist race with an exclusive licence agreement with clinical-stage biotech company Eccogene to develop and commercialise ECC5004, a small molecule GLP-1 agonist (GLP-1RA).  

As part of the agreement, Eccogene will receive a $185m upfront payment, with potential future payments of up to $1.82bn based on clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones, along with royalty payments. 

Astrazeneca gains exclusive rights to develop and commercialise ECC5004 globally, excluding China, where Eccogene and Astrazeneca will collaborate for co-development and co-commercialisation. 

In June of this year, Eccogene raised $25.23m (CNY180m) in a Series B financing round to support the development of its clinical-stage metabolic pipeline, including ECC5004. 

ECC5004 is a once-daily, oral GLP-1RA which is currently in Phase I clinical trials for the treatment of obesity, type 2 diabetes (T2D), and other comorbidities. GLP-1 inhibitors are a class of drugs developed for weight management and the treatment of T2D. Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk currently dominate the obesity drug market, with GLP-1 inhibitors Zepbound and Wegovy respectively. 

Eli Lilly’s Zepbound (tirzepatide) gained approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 8 November for the treatment of obesity. According to GlobalData, Zepbound is forecast to generate $27bn in sales by 2029. 

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Wegovy gained FDA approval in June 2021. Novo Nordisk has made Dkr21.7bn ($3bn) so far this year from with Wegovy, as per the company’s 2023 quarterly results, and as per GlobalData, is estimated to generate $12bn in sales by 2029. 

GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology. 

AstraZeneca bioPharmaceuticals R&D EVP Sharon Barr said: “Building on the promising Phase I clinical data generated by Eccogene, we believe this oral GLP-1RA molecule could offer alternatives to current injectable therapies both as a potential monotherapy as well as in combination for cardiometabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, as well as for obesity.” 

This content was updated on 25 January 2024