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Altimmune open to partnerships, deals with drugmakers, says CEO

By Pratik Jain and Khushi Mandowara

Dec 5 (Reuters) - Weight-loss drug developer Altimmune is open to deals and collaborations with large drugmakers as it actively looks for partners to launch and develop its experimental obesity drug, CEO Vipin Garg told Reuters on Tuesday.

Upbeat mid-stage trial data for its obesity drug and recent multi-billion dollar deals by companies such as Roche and AstraZeneca to grab a slice of the fast-growing market have fueled hopes of Big Pharma scooping up the company.

Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Altimmune last week reported mid-stage trial data for pemvidutide that showed the drug helped reduce weight by 15.6% on average and continued weight loss at the end of treatment.

That data came just hours before Pfizer said it was dropping the development of a twice-daily pill for obesity after high rates of side effects like nausea and vomiting were seen in a separate trial.

"We are going to need a partner, global partner who cannot only help us develop it in phase three, but also launch the drug. So in fact ... we would welcome any interest in discussions with large pharma as we move this program forward," Garg said.

Altimmune is one of the half dozen companies racing to grab a slice of the lucrative market for obesity treatments estimated to be worth $100 billion by the end of the decade.

When asked if the company was open to selling itself if it received any interest, Garg said "we will evaluate each one of the discussions in situation as they develop and would make the decision which is the most favorable to shareholders."

The company, with a market value of about $250 million, had cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of $141 million on Sept. 30.

Pemvidutide belongs to the same class of injected diabetes and obesity treatments as Novo Nordisk's Wegovy and Ozempic and Eli Lilly's Mounjaro and Zepbound, known as GLP-1 agonists, that are already bringing in billions of dollars.

Looking at rate of discontinuation, pemvidutide's tolerability looks better than other GLP drug in mid-stage studies, said JMP analyst Jonathan Wolleben.

Altimmune's stock, down 2.8% at $4.5 on Tuesday, has gained 42% since publishing mid-stage data on its obesity drug.

There will be growing demand for drugs to show benefits beyond weight loss, and companies including Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk are also making advances in the space, Garg said. (Reporting by Pratik Jain and Khushi Mandowara in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)