Novo Nordisk purchased Cardior Pharmaceuticals for up to $1.1 billion, the Danish drugmaker announced Monday morning.

Cardior develops therapies that target RNA in heart disease. Its lead candidate, CDR132L — a treatment for heart failure — will now be under Novo’s wing.

CDR132L reached safety and efficacy goalposts in a Phase 1b trial, with the results showing cardiac functional improvements in patients with heart failure compared to placebo. 

Currently, the drug candidate is in a Phase 2 trial examining 280 patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) who have suffered heart attacks in the past. That trial, HF-REVERT, kicked off in July 2022.

In a statement, the company said it sees the initial data as being a sign of CDR132L’s potential to become a first-in-class therapy designed to “halt or partially reverse” the course of disease for people living with heart failure.

Novo will also launch a second Phase 2 trial that examines the drug in patients with chronic heart failure with cardiac hypertrophy.

The move adds to Novo’s goal to bolster its cardiovascular pipeline as it’s buoyed by the success of its GLP-1 weight loss drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy. 

The popular weight loss treatments have also shown evidence of reducing the risk of major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke, which prompted the Cen­ters for Medicare and Med­ic­aid Ser­vices to recently authorize Medicare Part D plans to cover anti-obesity drugs if patients have a history of heart disease.

The deal, which Novo is funding with its financial reserves, is subject to regulatory approvals and set to close in Q2.

“By welcoming Cardior as a part of Novo Nordisk, we will strengthen our pipeline of projects in cardiovascular disease where we already have ongoing programs across all phases of clinical development,” said Martin Holst Lange, EVP for development at Novo, in a statement.

Claudia Ulbrich, CEO and co-founder of Cardior, pointed to the drug’s “transformative potential” as a disease-modifying therapy for heart failure under Novo’s care, calling them the ideal partner going forward.

The acquisition will add to Novo’s existing cardiovascular pipeline, which includes ziltivekimab, a novel once-monthly monoclonal antibody currently in a Phase 3 trial for patients with heart failure with HFpEF.

Novo is also continuing to investigate whether semaglutide, the active ingredient in its GLP-1 drugs, could be used to slash heart disease risk.

Thus far, it’s been promising: Last fall, the pharma reported that Wegovy reduced the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events by 20%.

The acquisition follows parent company Novo Holding’s much bigger purchase of Catalent earlier this year, which was worth up to $16.5 billion and brought three fill-finish sites to Novo Nordisk to boost Wegovy production amid high demand.

In its 2023 Q4 earnings released in January, Novo reported sales increased by 36% at constant exchange rates (CER) in 2023, with much of that uptick linked to the success of Ozempic and Wegovy.

To read an April 2024 article with a Big Pharma Q1 earnings roundup, click here.