Lilly to buy Versanis for up to $1.93 billion to boost obesity drug portfolio


(Reuters) -Eli Lilly and Co said on Friday it will acquire privately held drug developer Versanis for potentially up to $1.93 billion, in a bid to bolster its portfolio of obesity drugs.

The deal comes amid growing demand for weight-loss treatments, whose market size is expected to touch up to $100 billion in a decade, industry executives and analysts have said.

Versanis’s lead drug, bimagrumab, is being evaluated in a mid-stage trial alone as well as in combination with Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy or semaglutide in adults who are overweight or obese.

Wegovy belongs to a class of drugs known as incretins that are designed to mimic the action of the GLP-1 hormone, which helps regulate blood sugar, slow stomach emptying and decrease appetite.

Versanis’ bimagrumab acts directly on fat cells without reducing appetite and without prompting lean mass loss.

Combining incretins with bimagrumab has the potential to further reduce fat mass, while preserving muscle mass and may lead to better outcomes for people living with obesity and obesity-related complications, the company said.

Lilly has been working on several weight-loss treatments. Its once-weekly injected drug candidate, retatrutide, has showed that it led to weight loss of up to 24.2% after 48 weeks, surpassing results from other weight-loss drugs.

Under the terms of the agreement, Versanis shareholders could receive $1.93 billion in cash, which includes an upfront payment and subsequent payments upon achievement of certain development and sales milestones.

(Reporting by Sriparna Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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