“Miracle” weight-loss drugs like Danish-made Ozempic and Wegovy have made headlines in recent months as Hollywood stars as well as tech entrepreneurs like Elon Musk have touted their benefits.
However, both are prescription drugs primarily intended for people with Type 2 diabetes or those with obesity, making them hard to get hold of for the average non-diabetic struggling to lose 10 kilos.
Enter Stockholm-based Sigrid Therapeutics, which has developed an over-the-counter alternative set to launch in Florida next week — and just raised €4m.
Lowering blood sugar with silicon
Sigrid Therapeutics was founded in 2014 by Sana Alajmovic and professor Tore Bengtsson, who has been researching the impact of engineered silica particles on metabolic disorders at the Department of Molecular Biosciences at Stockholm University since 2008.
The company has found a way to lower blood sugar levels in users, which is especially important for those who are likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Rather than sell its “SiPore” to pharma giants, it’s instead going to sell consumers two products — a food supplement and a medical device — which do not fall under the same regulation as medical drugs, meaning they’re faster and less costly to bring to market.
Alajmovic wants to stop people becoming diabetic in the first place — and thinks taking Sigrid’s product is a good start. Based on a modification of the mineral silicon, the product has gone through consumer trials where it has shown similar results in lowering blood sugar for diabetic patients as the diabetes drug Metformin.
“It reduces the risk of developing diabetes and promotes long-term health for the individual. It also reduces the burden on society’s finances by reducing healthcare costs,” she says. Lifestyle and chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease are responsible for about 70% of all deaths globally.
Sigrid plans to sell its two products through different channels. The diet supplement will be launched in the US, where it will be sold directly to consumers as “medical food” via wellness centres and online. When taken with the user’s two largest meals of the day, the supplement makes sure the sugar spike that comes after the meal is significantly lowered.
The medical device, a gel also based on the mineral silicon but stronger than the diet supplement, will be launched in the EU next year following the conclusion of an ongoing study, with a marketing and distribution partner.
“Both of these will be available over the counter since pre-diabetics doesn’t count as a disease but as a high-risk condition,” Alajmovic says.
Better than Ozempic in lowering blood sugar spikes
Alajmovic doesn’t mind her product being compared to Ozempic; however, she stresses that SiPore isn’t a weight-loss product.
“We are very good at lowering blood sugar and that has been our focus. My cofounder Tore usually says that Ozempic isn’t that good at lowering the blood sugar spikes after a meal — there I would say we have an edge,” Alajmovic says. “However, this is not a weight-loss supplement. It will have positive effects on your weight over time but it’s not 15% straight away as with Ozempic.”
Although drugs like Ozempic have shown remarkable results, Alajmovic believes that there are people out there looking for a more natural remedy.
“I think there are people out there that either cannot tolerate Ozempic or want a natural alternative,” she says.
Alajmovic is not keen to talk about what the product will cost but suggests it’ll be somewhere between its main competitors.
“In comparison to Ozempic, it’s affordable, but in comparison to Metformin, which you pay for on prescription, it is more expensive.”
Ozempic is cited as costing about $900 a month, while 100 pills of Metformin can cost anything from $13–$22, depending on pharmacy and insurance policy.
The €4m (44m SEK) raise announced is peanuts in comparison to that raised by diabetics companies such as Livongo and Virta Health — however, with a small team of 10, Sigrid Therapeutics runs a tight ship. To date, it’s raised around $20m.
“We’ve been riding on the [Ozempic] wave and that is probably one reason why we managed to raise this capital at the same valuation as our previous round. The recent debate has made investors hungry,” Alajmovic says.
Diabetic and vanity drugs have obviously caught the attention of healthtech and longevity investors alike.
As investor and psychedelics founder Christian Angermayer put it on stage at Sifted Summit in October:
“I do it [Ozempic] because it’s proven that any of these diabetes drugs, which level out your insulin spikes, are great.”
If Sigrid Therapeutics can continue riding on the success of Ozempic, it may at last be able to see returns for all those years of work to bring its products to market.