BioAge raises $170M as obesity spotlight shifts to oral options, muscle preservers

BioAge Labs has reeled in the biotech industry’s largest private financing round so far in 2024 as the California startup goes full throttle on the hottest areas in obesity drug development: oral formulations and muscle preservation.

The biotech, which emerged as one of the anti-aging players in 2015, is moving forward with azelaprag, a drug it licensed from Amgen after the pharma had attempted developing it for heart failure. Its $170 million Series D, disclosed Tuesday morning, is the 10th megaround (at least $100 million) of the year, per Endpoints News data.

BioAge is billing the round as a crossover, and the startup will assess the markets to “see when it makes the most sense to go out” as it prepares for life as a public biotech, CEO Kristen Fortney told Endpoints in an interview. Six biotechs have gone public so far this year as the markets thaw from a two-year downturn.

Approaching Phase II in the middle of this year, the obesity and metabolic diseases biotech courted some of the most active crossover investors as well as two Big Pharma venture arms (Eli Lilly and Amgen) for the oversubscribed round. The late-stage financing is reminiscent of Carmot Therapeutics’ $150 million Series E last May, which was followed by plans for an IPO that ultimately weren’t needed as Roche bought the mid-stage obesity drugmaker for $2.7 billion.

BioAge will test azelaprag, an oral apelin receptor agonist (previously called BGE-105 or AMG 986 in its Amgen days) in combination with the low, 5 mg dose of Lilly’s injectable Zepbound, Fortney said. They’ll start with people aged 55 years and older, she said. The goal is for the small molecule to help people shed more weight without muscle loss, a concern that has risen with Zepbound and Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and has led to the next frontier in what analysts say will become a $100 billion market.

The biotech mines through data from biobanks that have health records dating back 50 years, gaining insight into how patients lived, the diseases they got, and how their cognitive and muscle function shifted over time, among other things, Fortney said.

“Apelin is a peptide that circulates in your blood, and we found that individuals with higher levels of apelin when they were middle-aged were living longer with better functional outcomes,” Fortney said.

In December 2022, BioAge said its drug promoted muscle metabolism and “prevented muscle atrophy in healthy older volunteers at bedrest” in a Phase Ib trial.

“After we announced that data, some pharma companies actually reached out, and we learned about the potential application in obesity, which hadn’t really been on our road map before,” Fortney said.

Regeneron is angling for a similar move as it plans to test its muscle-preserving drugs with semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy. Lilly, meanwhile, bought Novartis spinout Versanis Bio last year and could enter Phase III with its drug bimagrumab in combination with Zepbound’s active ingredient tirzepatide, the biotech’s CEO, Mark Pruzanski, previously told Endpoints.

It’s all part of a broader move for combination-based regimens, being eyed by the likes of AstraZeneca and Merck, to target comorbidity areas like heart disease and fatty liver disease.

BioAge expects to have the Phase II results by the end of 2025 at the latest, Fortney said. For late-stage testing, the 60-employee biotech will likely partner with a pharma that has an incretin for obesity, given the large scale of the addressable population, she added. BioAge could explore azelaprag’s potential in diabetes and heart conditions as well…




BioAge Labs



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