On Tuesday the Arctic Aurora LifeScience portfolio company  Viking Therapeutics announced the results of a Phase 2 clinical study in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL) in which the US company’s drug candidate VK2809 showed a clear and statistically significant effect in lowering liver fat content. The data comes less than a year after Madrigal Pharmaceuticals also presented similar results with a compound that works similarly to Viking’s, by activating a hormonal signal to increase fat metabolism in the liver.  

Madrigal’s data was the first to show a considerable reversal of a wide range of disease endpoints including liver fat levels, inflammation and reduction in liver fibrosis. Competitors, that includes big pharma and biotech names that are more advanced in development, are predominantly focused on single factors surrounding the disease such as inflammation or reducing liver fat levels only.

At a glance Viking’s data looked even more impressive than Madrigal’s. However, cross-study comparisons are difficult to make at this point as Viking so far has treated a considerably lower amount of patients and the patients recruited to their study looks to have a lower liver fat baseline levels. Madrigal on the other hand have studied their drug in the more advanced disease, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH, which typically occurs when NAFLD goes untreated. It is widely known among hepatologists that the sooner in disease onset patients with fatty liver disease can be treated the better the easier it gets to lower the dangerous liver fat levels.

That did not stop the Viking share to nearly double during the day (up close to 90%) as VK2809 appears just as safe it’s close competitor and Viking’s therapeutic approach that includes higher exposure directly into the liver may prove to be a differentiating factor. But that remains for future late-stage studies to conclude. 

Western dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles that are now spreading globally are considered the main culprit behind NAFLD and NASH. It is also why drug developing giants such as Gilead, Novo Nordisk and Pfizer are racing to get a treatment approved. It is estimated that more than 30 million people are suffering from NASH in the US alone. The market, in which there are no approved products to date, are estimated to be worth more than a whooping USD 30bn when commercialized with effective treatments.

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Arctic Aurora LifeScience is an equity fund investing in global biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. The fund is run by former portfolio manager in the Swedish AP3 Fonder, Ulrica Bjerke, as well as Dr. Torbjørn Bjerke, both with 20 years of experience from the market. Arctic Aurora LifeScience was launched in May 2016 with both hedged and un-hedged share classes.

Past performance in Arctic Aurora LifeScience is no guarantee for future returns. Future returns depend on the market, fund manager skill, fund risk level, costs, among others. Performance in the fund may at times be negative and may for this fund vary considerably within periods.