Weight-loss drug startup Metsera wants to take on Novo and Lilly. Here’s what you need to know

Metsera, a clinical-stage biotechnology startup that develops drugs for obesity and metabolic diseases, launched on Thursday with what it described as a “broad portfolio” of weight-loss treatments that it hopes to bring to market.

The company, which has already acquired the U.K.-based startup, Zihipp, and formed a licensing pact with a South Korean drugmaker, D&D Pharmatech, claims that its products could eventually compete with industry leaders Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro. Those treatments, along with Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Lilly’s Zepbound, recently became overnight sensations and have been further popularized by influencers on social media.

Analysts project that the anti-obesity drug market could grow to $100 billion by 2030. Metsera CEO Dr. Clive Meanwell has high hopes for the industry. “It’s an almost limitless market opportunity,” Meanwell told Fierce Biotech in an interview. “I think we have a real shot here of making some major products.”

The company announced on Thursday that it has raised $290 million in seed and Series A funding, led by Arch Venture Partners and Population Health Partners, both of which are prolific biotechnology venture firms. Additional participants included F-Prime Capital, GV, Mubadala Capital, Newpath Partners, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, and other “undisclosed investors,” according to Metsera.

According to STAT News, Metsera deviates from the type of investment that Arch typically makes, as it tends to focus on under-addressed healthcare problems. This divergence reflects how prominent weight-loss drugs have become in the biotechnology industry, and the category’s potential for growth.

Meanwell aims to develop a sustained business strategy that could “go after the second, third, or even fourth generation” of weight-loss medicines, as he told BioPharma Dive in an interview. The company hopes that, by securing a range of drug candidates through licensing agreements, it can target specific demands that current companies do not yet address, such as losing weight without losing muscle mass or quality of sleep. Zihipp contains a portfolio of 20,000 gut hormone peptides.

Metsera is composed of a team of industry veterans. Meanwell himself has experience founding and leading The Medicines Company, which was acquired by Novartis in 2019 for $9.7 billion. Following the acquisition of Zihipp, its former chairman, Sir Steven Bloom, will serve as senior vice president of R&D. Together with the rest of its team of 70, Metsera appears to be well-positioned to compete within the rapidly growing weight-loss drug industry.