FT reports that there will be a new challenger in the weight-loss drug race that is heating up in the US because of how well they are performing and the fact that they have gained so much popularity in such a small amount of time. Now, the chief executive of biotech company Zealand Pharma claims that “Other drugmakers could still “win” the race in the rapidly growing obesity market dominated by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly”. The claim by Adam Steensberg follows a 100 per cent surge in the company’s share price in the past year as investors bought the stock thanks to the potential of its anti-obesity drugs.

Zealand’s products in development will have to compete with the popular Wegovy and Zepbound drugs already on the market and made by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly respectively, which suppress appetite. However, Steensberg stressed his company, which joined forces with German pharma group Boehringer Ingelheim over a decade ago to develop a weight loss drug that is now in late stage trials, wanted to partner with other groups for future treatments rather than sell to a large company. “We are not interested in people looking to catch up . . . It’s about joining forces with someone who has a strategy of how they would win in obesity,” he told the Financial Times. “I think it’s a big misperception to say others are too late. This is just the start.”

Steensburg says that “There are 220 diseases that you can associate with obesity . . . in the future, there needs to be more choices,” and mentions that there was space for others to develop weight-loss products. In addition to Steensburg making an obesity drug, it is reported that “Swiss company Roche acquired obesity drug developer Carmot Therapeutics for $3.1bn last month, while AstraZeneca signed a $2bn licensing agreement with Eccogene, a Chinese maker of an oral obesity drug in November. US rival Pfizer abandoned plans for a weight-loss pill in December after trials showed significant side effects. Boehringer and Zealand Pharma are also testing their weight loss treatment survodutide, a GLP-1 or glucagon-like peptide 1 agonist drug similar to Wegovy, for its effectiveness in tackling NASH, a chronic liver disease that is estimated to affect up to 6.5 per cent of US adults”.