Viking Therapeutics emerges as competitor

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Biotech company Viking Therapeutics has emerged as a strong potential entrant — or takeover target — in the budding weight loss drug market

Viking is just one of several companies racing to join the growing space. Some analysts say the market could be worth $100 billion by the end of the decade.

Viking aims to compete with injectable drugs from Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk. Their treatments sparked the weight loss drug industry gold rush over the past year despite their hefty price tags and barriers to insurance coverage. 

Some Wall Street analysts said Viking’s experimental obesity treatment may be “best-in-class.” In a midstage trial, an injectable version of Viking’s drug appeared to promote even greater weight loss than Eli Lilly’s Zepbound.

Viking gave a first glimpse at data from that study on Tuesday, and its shares soared 120%. The promising results make the company an impressive potential player in a market that will likely have room for more entrants in the coming years. 

Goldman Sachs projects that between 10 million and 70 million Americans will be taking weight loss drugs by 2028. Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk have also struggled to offer enough supply of their treatments, giving other companies a chance to win market share.  

The new data also makes Viking a more attractive deal target for larger companies trying to break into the space or expand their obesity treatment offerings.

It’s too early to say whether Viking’s drug could have an edge over existing or developing weight loss treatments. It’s difficult to compare therapies without pitting them head to head in the same clinical trial. 

Viking also needs to conduct a late-stage study on its drug, and likely won’t launch the injection until the later part of the decade. The small company faces hurdles to entering the market, such as manufacturing enough of the drug to meet booming demand. But an acquisition by a larger company could help solve some of those issues.

Data suggests Viking’s drug may have an edge

Viking’s phase two trial followed more than 170 patients who are overweight or obese. They received different dose sizes of the injectable drug or a placebo.

The trial did not directly compare Viking’s treatment to other drugs. Still, many analysts compared Viking’s injection to Eli Lilly’s Zepbound, largely because they work the same way. 

An injection pen of Zepbound, Eli Lilly’s weight loss drug, is displayed in New York City on Dec. 11, 2023.

Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters

Both drugs imitate two naturally produced gut hormones called GLP-1 and GIP. GLP helps reduce food intake and appetite. GIP, which also suppresses appetite, may also improve how the body breaks down sugar and fat.

Meanwhile, Novo Nordisk’s weight loss injection Wegovy only targets GLP-1. 

Analysts were particularly impressed by the weight patients lost after they took the highest dose of Viking’s drug. Those who received a weekly 15 milligram dose of the treatment lost 13.1% of…

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Viking Therapeutics emerges as competitor

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