Viking Therapeutics stock jumps 15% on promising weight loss pill data


Viking Therapeutics shares jumped more than 10% in premarket trading Tuesday after the company said its experimental weight loss pill showed positive results in a small study and will enter the next stage of development later this year.

The study results add to the excitement around the drugmaker’s prospects in the budding weight loss drug market.

Viking is one of several small biotech companies hoping to compete with Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly in the space, which analysts say could grow into a $100 billion market by the end of the decade. Some analysts view Viking as a particularly strong potential player, or takeover target for a larger company. 

Based on Tuesday’s results, Viking plans to start a phase two trial on its weight loss pill later this year. The once-a-day tablet is an oral version of the company’s experimental weight loss injection, which showed encouraging results in a mid-stage trial last month. 

The phase one trial for the pill followed more than 40 patients with obesity for around a month. Those people took different dose sizes of the drug or received a placebo.

Viking said patients who received the pill once a day lost up to 5.3% of their weight on average, or up to 3.3% more than those who took a placebo, at 28 days. 

Up to 57% of patients who received Viking’s pill lost at least 5% of their body weight. Meanwhile, no people who took the placebo shed that much weight, the company said. 

Notably, those who received higher doses of the experimental pill appeared to maintain or add to their weight loss at 34 days in the study, six days after their last dose of the drug. Weight loss for those patients ranged up to 3.6% higher than those who received a placebo. 

Viking CEO Brian Lian said during a conference call on Tuesday that it’s unclear “how durable” the weight loss is. Still, he noted that the sustained weight loss seen in the trial may be encouraging to patients who might miss a dose because they are traveling or don’t have access to their medication. 

“I think that’s an encouraging sign that you don’t necessarily have to take it every day,” he said.

In a release, Viking said it believes that treating patients beyond 28 days may provide “further reductions in body weight.” 

The company also said the trial suggested the pill is safe and tolerable to take. 

The majority of side effects that patients experienced after starting the oral drug were mild in severity. 

The majority of gastrointestinal events that patients experienced were mild. Gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, are commonly seen across all weight loss and diabetes treatments.

But people who received Viking’s pill did not report vomiting. Patients who took the placebo also reported diarrhea more frequently than those treated with the oral drug, the company said.

Analysts have compared Viking’s weight loss injection to Eli Lilly’s injectable drug Zepbound because both drugs imitate two naturally produced gut hormones called GLP-1 and GIP.

GLP-1 helps reduce food intake and appetite. GIP, which also suppresses appetite, may also improve how the body breaks down sugar and fat.

Meanwhile, Novo Nordisk’s weight loss injection Wegovy only targets GLP-1.



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