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Korean drug makers flock to obesity treatment

By Shim Woo-hyun

Published : May 8, 2024 - 16:51

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South Korea’s pharmaceutical companies are accelerating the development of anti-obesity drugs to take share in the rapidly growing market, which is estimated to hit $100 billion by 2030.

Hanmi Pharmaceutical is one of a few Korean drug companies that have been pushing ahead with their clinical trials for homegrown anti-obesity drugs. The drug company is currently expected to be the first Korean company that will launch a homegrown anti-obesity drug.

“Hanmi Pharmaceutical is the only Korean company that has entered a phase 3 clinical trial for an anti-obesity drug. It will also become the first company to commercialize one,” an official from Hanmi Pharmaceutical said Wednesday.

Hanmi Pharmaceutical’s first anti-obesity drug will be HM11260C (efpeglenatide). Hanmi Pharmaceutical has been conducting a phase 3 clinical trial for the drug candidate since January last year here, to launch the drug in late 2026 or early 2027, the official added.

Hanmi Pharmaceutical is also increasing efforts to develop the next-generation anti-obesity drugs. On Wednesday, Hanmi Pharmaceutical said that the company has received the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval to conduct a phase 1 clinical trial for HM15275, a novel long-acting triple agonist at the glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1), gastric inhibitory peptide (GIP) and glucagon receptor.

"HM15275 incorporates the research knowledge and know-how that Hanmi has accumulated over 20 years of research in the field of incretins," the official from Hanmi Pharmaceutical said.

HK inno.N is also competing with Hanmi Pharmaceutical to launch the country's first anti-obesity drug. HK inno.N has recently jumped into the development of an anti-obesity drugs with its partnership with Chinese drug company Sciwind Biosciences. HK inno.N is expected to save significant amount of time by finishing local development of the partner’s anti-obesity drug candidate XW003, a candidate that is already under phase 3 clinical trial in China.

Other pharmaceutical companies that are testing their anti-obesity drugs include Dong-A ST. Dong-A ST’s US-based subsidiary NeuroBo Pharmaceuticals started a phase 1 clinical trial for its drug candidate DA-1726 in April this year, after receiving the US FDA approval in January last year.

Yuhan is also expecting positive results from phase 1 clinical trial of YH25724 during this year, which the company out-licensed to Boehringer Ingelheim for W1tr in July 2019.

Another company that has recently jumped into the development of anti-obesity drugs is HK inno.N. The company has recently partnered with Chinese drug company Sciwind Biosciences to develop and commercialize the partner’s anti-obesity drug candidate XW003.

Some companies are developing other forms of weight-loss drugs. Daewoong Pharmaceutical is planning on starting a phase 1 clinical trial for its anti-obesity drug candidate using microneedles, with a goal of launching it in 2028. Daewon Pharm has also received the Korean government’s approval for a phase 1 clinical study for its anti-obesity drug utilizing a microneedle patch.

The reason why local drug companies are jumping into the obesity treatment market is its high growth potential. According to Goldman Sachs’ research report released in October last year, the market is expected to reach $100 billion by 2030, with an increasing obese population worldwide.

“The obesity treatment market will be competitive as there are so many anti-obesity drugs under clinical trials at the moment. But, latecomers will still have chances to succeed in the market as the demand will continue to outstrip the supply for a while,” an official from a local pharmaceutical company said.