NorthSea Therapeutics raises $40m to develop NASH drug

Dutch biotech NorthSea Therapeutics has raised around $40 million in a series B financing round to help it develop novel strategies to treat the fatty liver disease known as NASH.

There is still no approved treatment for NASH – full name non-alcoholic steatohepatitis – but Intercept’s obeticholic acid is nearing the end of its FDA review and a decision is due at the end of April.

If approved, obeticholic acid is expected to be the first of many drugs that could be used to treat NASH, which is expected to be a source of billions of dollars in revenue for big pharma.

Backed by Novo Seeds, the early stage investment and company creation team of Novo Holdings, NorthSea Therapeutics is one of many biotechs busy trying to find innovative ways to treat NASH, where the liver becomes scarred and injured after becoming overloaded with fat.

NorthSea will use proceeds of the 36 million euro fundraising to develop its pipeline drugs based around Structural Engineered Fatty Acids (SEFAs).

The plan is to develop two additional SEFAs within its clinical pipeline and complete phase 2b development with icosabutate.

In addition to Novo Seeds, existing investors Forbion, New Science Ventures (NSV) and BioGeneration Ventures (BGV) also participated in the round. New US investors venBio led the Series B round, and were joined by Sofinnova Investments.

NorthSea licensed the rights to icosabutate and a library of discovery- and pre-clinical-stage SEFAs from Pronova BioPharma Norge AS.

Pronova was the developer of Omacor, a former blockbuster cardiovascular drug based on Omega-3 fish oil first marketed by Reliant Pharmaceuticals following FDA approval in 2004, which was later bought by Germany’s BASF.

Icosabutate has been found to be safe and effective in two prior Phase 2 clinical studies for the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia and is currently in clinical development for NASH.

Based in the Netherlands with sites in the UK, NorthSea began a phase 2b NASH study of icosabutate in July.

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