Novo looks towards neurodegenerative diseases to increase future profitability

Novo shifts its long term focus from diabetes to neurodegenerative diseases, creating competition with Lundbeck and generating speculation on potential collaboration

Danish pharma giant Novo Nordisk intends to make long term investments into treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to diversify revenue streams, thus future  proofing the organisation while decreasing its reliance on diabetes treatments.

This would position the company in competition with fellow Danish pharma company Lundbeck, who focus on neurodegenerative diseases, reports Berlingske

The investment comes as no surprise, as the expected number of potentially profitable new diabetes drugs decreases.

Possible collaborators
Head of research at Novo, Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, said “if Novo discovers the key to treating disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, a collaboration with Lundbeck could be on the cards.”

“There has been great progress in areas such as oncology and diabetes research with real results. However, research into diseases related to the brain such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s has been heavy going, and no serious new drugs have been discovered in over 2 decades,” he further commented.

READ ALSO: Danish research aims to diagnose Parkinson’s early via a phone call

Novo’s primary focus is still diabetes and obesity research but the attempt to enter the estimated 55 billion kroner Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s market could increases potential returns.

Neurodegenerative and curable
The blood brain barrier presents a unique challenge for new medicines since it has evolved to eliminate all foreign substances, causing 95 percent of neurodegenerative treatments to fail.

At present, there is no perfect treatment for the two disorders; they are commonly treated with anti-depressants. The most common treatment for Parkinson’s continues to be a drug developed in the late 1960s.

However, the British/American biotech company Ossianix has developed a new technology from antibodies found in a species of shark that could make neurodegenerative treatments pass the blood brain barrier more effectively. Novo Nordisk and Lundbeck are both collaborating with Ossianix.

READ ALSO: Danish research: Shark blood could help cure brain diseases

Semaglutid, another potential treatment,  could harbour breakthroughs for treatments of the two diseases. It is primarily expected to be effective in anti-diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. However, Thomsen sees potential for neurodegenerative diseases as well.

Novo expect Semaglutid to become a source of profit within the next 15 years.

Shining potential?
The 3 major Danish pharma companies, Novo, Lundbeck and Leo Pharma, currently have no market overlap.

“I strongly believe that Danish companies should work together to grow, so Lundbeck is an option,” said Novo CEO, Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen.

“However, there are also 3 or 4 companies from Switzerland, the US and the UK who are strong contenders. But I do have great respect for Lundbeck’s pioneering research into CNS diseases,” he added.

In a written response to Berlingske, Lundbeck responded by saying “We are always interested in collaborating on new innovative treatment options for diseases we focus on.”