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Viking (VKTX) Up 17% on Encouraging Oral Obesity Drug Data

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Shares of Viking Therapeutics (VKTX - Free Report) were up 16.8% on Mar 26 after it announced positive data from an early-stage study that an oral formulation of VK2735, its investigational obesity drug.

The phase I study evaluated VK2735 at multiple dose levels and demonstrated dose-dependent reductions in mean body weight from baseline after 28 days of daily dosing. Patients who received the drug at the highest dose level (i.e., 40mg) lost up to 5.3% of their body weight, compared to 2.1% in the placebo group.

When adjusted for placebo rates, the drug reported a reduction in mean body weight of up to 3.3%. At the 20mg dose, patients lose weight by 1.1%.

In addition, 57% of patients who received the 40mg dose of the drug lost at least 5% of their body weight. The drug was well-tolerated across all doses, with no serious adverse events.

Based on a preliminary evaluation of the above data, Viking believes that treatment duration beyond 28 days may provide further reductions in body weight. In fact, those who received higher doses of VK2735 appeared to maintain or add to their weight loss at Day 34 in the study, which is six days after their last dose of the drug. Weight loss for those patients ranged up to 3.6% relative to placebo.

This reinvigorated investor expectations, as Viking’s drug met Wall Street’s expectations for weight loss, sending the share price soaring. Alongside the encouraging results, the company also announced its plans to advance VK2375 to mid-stage development by year-end.

Year to date, shares of Viking Therapeutics have skyrocketed 334.3% against the industry’s 0.9% fall.

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This latest data readout follows Viking’s mid-stage study results reported last month which evaluated a subcutaneous formulation of VK2375. Patients treated with this formulation had achieved a mean weight reduction of 14.7% compared to 1.7% in the placebo group.

The obesity market garnered much interest lately, ever since Novo Nordisk (NVO - Free Report) received FDA approval for Wegovy. The FDA approved the Novo Nordisk drug in 2021 for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight. Since approval, sales of the Novo Nordisk drug have been rising consistently, driven by increased demand for the drug.

Earlier this month, Novo Nordisk unveiled early-stage data on amycretin, its new oral obesity drug candidate, which could induce 13.1% weight loss after 12 weeks compared with 1.1% in the placebo group.

Another company that recently entered into the obesity drug race is Eli Lilly (LLY - Free Report) . In December, Lilly received FDA approval for its obesity drug Zepbound. It was launched by Lilly in January.

Anticipating an even bigger market for obesity drugs, Lilly has been evaluating multiple other obesity candidates in its pipeline apart from Zepbound. Eli Lilly’s pipeline currently includes retatrutide (GGG tri-agonist) and orforglipron, which are being developed for type II diabetes and obesity. Last year, Lilly acquired private biotech Versanis to strengthen its position further in the obesity market.

We remind investors that the drugs marketed by Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk are approved for subcutaneous administration. The successful development and potential approval of an orally administered drug like VK2735 will help cater to a broader patient population, given the easier-to-use formulation compared with a subcutaneously-administered drug.

The obesity market is also acquiring interest from other large-cap drug makers like AstraZeneca and Roche (RHHBY - Free Report) , who are also looking into options to enter the lucrative obesity space.

In December, Roche announced its foray into the obesity market when it entered into an agreement to acquire privately owned Carmot Therapeutics for $2.7 billion. The acquisition provides Roche access to Carmot’s differentiated portfolio of incretins, including lead assets CT-388, CT-996 and CT-868. Per Roche, the incretin-based portfolio could also be expanded to other indications where incretins play a role, including cardiovascular, retinal and neurodegenerative diseases. The acquisition was completed this January.

Last November, AstraZeneca announced that it has entered into an exclusive deal with Chinese private biotech Eccogene to develop the latter’s oral drug, ECC5004, for treating obesity, type-II diabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. With the agreement, AstraZeneca will get exclusive global development and commercialization rights to Eccogene in all territories except China. In China, Eccogene and AstraZeneca have joint rights.


Zacks Rank

Viking currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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