Cutting-Edge Biotech: A Novel Gene Therapy That Reverses Aging and a New Oral GLP-1 Drug From Viking Therapeutics

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There is a reason why biotech is considered a very volatile sector. After all, fortunes are made and destroyed within a few seconds in this sphere, dictated by the outcome of clinical trials for experimental therapies. Fortunately, over the past few days, we’ve received some very encouraging news on two unrelated but equally important vectors for improving the overall quality of human life: a new gene therapy that has the potential to significantly extend the human lifespan and a new oral GLP-1 weight loss drug candidate from Viking Therapeutics (NASDAQ: VKTX).

Viking Therapeutics’ Oral GLP-1 Weight Loss Drug Is Out To Give Eli Lilly and Company and Novo Nordisk a Run for Their Money

GLP-1 drugs can induce significant weight loss by suppressing hunger and regulating the production of insulin and glucose. Novo Nordisk uses Semaglutide as its proprietary GLP-1 agonist in drugs that are marketed under Ozempic and Wegovy labels, with the former geared toward type-2 diabetes and the latter marketed as a treatment for obesity. Similarly, Eli Lilly and Company currently offers Tirzepatide as one of its proprietary drugs to combat diabetes and obesity, leveraging both GLP-1 and Glucose-dependent Insulinotropic Polypeptide (GIP) agonists to offer better efficacy. Eli Lilly markets Tirzepatide under the Mounjaro and Zepbound labels, with the former geared toward diabetes and the latter billed as a treatment for obesity.

While the mainstream GLP-1 offerings from both Eli Lilly and Company and Novo Nordisk are currently administered only in an injectable form, a viable orally administered drug remains a holy grail of sorts for the industry.

It is here that Viking Therapeutics has made a gigantic splash. As per the results of a phase 2 trial, the company’s proprietary drug – a dual agonist that leverages both GLP-1 and GIP receptors and is currently called VK2735 – was able to induce an average weight loss of 14.7 percent of the body weight after just 13 weeks of treatment. Critically, VK2735 managed to exhibit statistically significant outperformance relative to the placebo.

Eli Lilly and Company’s Retatutide offering has been creating a lot of buzz in the market lately. The drug targets three different hunger-regulating hormones to offer better efficacy: GLP-1, GIP, and Glucagon. Yet, Viking Therapeutics’ VK2735 offering has been able to better outperform its trial placebo, leading to the stock’s rip-roaring gains. To wit, while the shares of both Eli Lilly and Company and Novo Nordisk have declined today, those of Viking Therapeutics are currently up 81 percent in early trading!

Of course, Novo Nordisk is also working on its own oral GLP-1 offering called CagriSema, which induces an average loss of around 15.6 percent of body weight at 32 weeks of uninterrupted administration, as per the results of a phase 2 trial. Similarly, Eli Lilly and Company’s oral GLP-1 offering, Orforglipron, is set to undergo phase three trials in 2025. As per the results of Orforglipron’s phase two trial data, study participants were able to achieve an average weight loss of between 8.6 percent and 12.6 percent at 26 weeks of treatment.

Then we have non-GLP-1 weight loss drugs, such as Zealand’s Amylin, which works solely by increasing the feeling of satiation to reduce the overall intake of food, thereby inducing weight loss. As per its early-stage trials, Amylin can induce a quantum of weight loss that matches those produced by GLP-1 offerings, but with significantly reduced side effects of vomiting, nausea, and constipation. Zealand’s GLP-1/Glucagon dual agonist, called Survodutide, recently exhibited a significant amelioratory impact on tackling the fatty liver disease, MASH.

According to Goldman Sachs, anti-obesity drugs could boost the GDP of the US by 1 percent as a result of efficiency gains from lower obesity. The Wall Street behemoth estimates that between 10 million and 70 million people in the US will be using GLP-1 drugs by 2028.

A New Gene Therapy to Extend Human Lifespan?

While developments on the GLP-1 front are encouraging, another study has far more profound implications for improving the overall quality of life.

To wit, researchers led by Carolina Cano Macip recently encoded an OSK system – which stimulates axon regeneration – within “adeno-associated viruses.” These viruses were then delivered to 124-week-old male mice, extending their “median remaining lifespan by 109%.” This treatment also improved a range of health parameters.

While this treatment has not been tested on humans, researchers noted “significant epigenetic markers of age reversal” in human keratinocytes, which are the most dominant cell type in the epidermis.

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