Fauna Bio and Novo Nordisk enter into Research Collaboration to Discover Novel Therapeutics for Obesity

By investigating patterns in animals, companies hope to find genetic insights to find treatments for prevalent human disease

BERKELEY, Calif., Jan. 13, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Fauna Bio, developers of the largest and most accurately characterized hibernation biobank coupled with next-generation sequencing, announced today it has entered into a research collaboration with Novo Nordisk to work towards finding new therapies for obesity by investigating novel molecules and pathways that increase metabolic rate in hibernating mammals. The goal of the joint research effort is to investigate cellular physiology at key time points during the metabolically intense arousal periods within hibernation. The results of this work will provide insight into the specific genes, proteins, and signaling networks that underlie metabolic switch points.

During hibernation, mammals actively suppress their metabolic rate to 1 to 3 percent of normal while lowering their body temperature to enter a state called torpor. However, this condition is not continuous for the 6-9 months of hibernation, and the animals intermittently awaken every 1 to 3 weeks in just a few short hours. These arousals are metabolically challenging periods as mammals return from near-freezing to normal body temperature and metabolism in just a couple of hours.  Understanding how they survive these extreme conditions can teach us how to treat obesity and metabolic diseases, as well as conditions such as strokes, heart attacks and Alzheimer's disease.  Evidence of genetic ties to hibernation, specifically in ground squirrels, was published in December 2019 in Nature Communications Biology by Fauna Bio co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Katharine Grabek, Ph.D. The team hopes to further the learnings from this study to examine more closely the correlations between animal biology and human health.

"Novo Nordisk has a great team of scientists with depth of expertise in metabolism and obesity," said Ashley Zehnder, D.V.M., chief executive officer of Fauna Bio. "This collaboration allows us to leverage their expertise to quickly test candidates in validated assays as well as demonstrate the strength of our comparative genomics approach to drug discovery. In the longer horizon, the collaboration could potentially result in novel treatments of obesity to the benefit of patients for whom limited or inadequate treatments exist today."

Under this agreement, Fauna Bio will receive an upfront payment and research support for activities conducted in the collaboration, while granting Novo Nordisk an exclusive option to license targets identified under the collaboration. 

Mads Tang-Christensen, Corporate Vice President and Global Head of Obesity Research at Novo Nordisk explains: "Having a chance to engage with Fauna Bio represents an exciting and significant step in understanding the basis of energy homeostasis in an extreme physiological setting. Our partnership brings together experts from a variety of fields at a time when rapid advancements in bioinformatics and genomics can be applied to the untapped potential of unique animal models."

Dr. Zehnder will speak on a panel to kick off the Bay Bridge Bio's "Biotech Start-Up School" on January 30, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. at Byers Auditorium in Genentech Hall at UCSF. For more information on Fauna Bio, please visit www.faunabio.com

About Fauna Bio
Fauna Bio is developing new ways to treat human diseases, such as heart disease and neurodegenerative disease, by adopting mechanisms that animals have developed for extreme traits such as hibernation and deep-diving. Founded by three scientists who have intimate knowledge of the best science and resources from the field of non-model organisms, Fauna Bio leverages data from hundreds of species in order to help develop pre-clinical and early clinical testing for new therapeutics targeting human diseases. To learn more about Fauna Bio, visit www.faunabio.com.

About Novo Nordisk
Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with more than 95 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. This heritage has given us experience and capabilities that also enable us to help people defeat obesity, haemophilia, growth disorders and other serious chronic diseases. Headquartered in Denmark, Novo Nordisk employs approximately 42,200 people in 80 countries and markets its products in more than 170 countries. For more information, visit novonordisk.com, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube.

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