Cambridge, UK–based AstraZeneca continued its strong growth trajectory in Q3 2023, expanding its cardiometabolic and obesity pipeline with a focus on GLP-1 receptor agonists. In particular, AstraZeneca has a licensing agreement with Eccogene for ECC5004, a potential oral GLP-1RA for obesity and cardiometabolic conditions, represents the company’s strategic focus on this emerging therapeutic area, which Lilly and Novo Nordisk currently dominate.
Pascal Soriot, CEO of the company noted he was “excited” about the acceleration of the company’s cardiometabolic and obesity pipeline with the licensing agreement for ECC5004, “a potential best-in-class oral GLP-1RA.”
ECC5004 has an oral formulation, in contrast to Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy (semaglutide) and the recently approved Lilly’s Zepbound (tirzepatide), which are injectables. This oral GLP-1 receptor agonist could potentially improve patient compliance and accessibility in treating obesity and type 2 diabetes. While Novo Nordisk won FDA approval in 2019 for Rybelsus, an oral semaglutide formulation from Novo Nordisk. Both are GLP-1 receptor agonists, but Rybelsus is currently FDA approved only for managing type 2 diabetes. Novo Nordisk has a phase 3 study underway for oral semaglutide in obesity.
ECC5004 is now in phase 1 testing in healthy volunteers and patients with type 2 diabetes. Early data from this trial have shown encouraging results in terms of glucose and body weight reduction. AstraZeneca plans to conduct a phase 2 test for the molecule in 2024, viewing it as a potential monotherapy and as part of combinations for a variety of cardiometabolic conditions.
Additionally, AstraZeneca is working with Regeneron to develop small-molecule weight loss drugs targeting a newly discovered protein, GPR75. The particular focus of the partnership is to explore potential of small molecules to treat obesity. The GPR75 protein is a member of the G-protein-coupled receptor family.
Snapshot of the company’s recent financial performance
In the first nine months of 2023, the AstraZeneca’s total revenue was $33.787 billion, up 5%, with a 15% increase excluding COVID-19 medicines. The company was early to the COVID-19 vaccine race, but abandoned its plans to introduce its vaccine in the U.S.
- Core product sales gross margin: 82%, a two percentage point bump.
- Core operating margin: Increased to 35%, up by three percent.
- Core EPS: Up 17% to $5.80.
- Guidance for FY 2023: The company expects total revenue to increase by a mid-single-digit percentage, with low-teens percentage growth expected excluding COVID-19 medicines.
AstraZeneca achieved its 2014 target of reaching $45 billion in revenue by 2023, a year early. The company was able to hit that target largely as a result of the acquisition of Alexion Pharmaceuticals and robust sales in its cancer medicine division.
In an earnings call, Soriot highlighted the success in oncology, especially in China, and noted the integration of new assets like Enhertu and DS-1062 in collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd. Its oncology business reported product sales of $12,692 million in the first nine months of 2023, accounting for one-fifth of total sales and marking a 38% increase in actual terms and 17% in constant exchange rates (CER). Medications such as Tagrisso and Imfinzi were major sales drivers. Tagrisso alone raked in $4.4 billion and Imfinzi had $3.1 billion in sales.
Over the past five days, AstraZeneca’s stock has seen a slight increase of 0.094%, hitting $63.73.