NorthSea Therapeutics has been founded in the Netherlands to develop a drug against NASH, a disease with no treatment and a huge market.
With a €25M investment in Series A, NorthSea Therapeutics is all set to start Phase II trials in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and take on a very profitable market. The fundraising was led by Forbion and BVG, with the participation of Novo Seeds and New Science Ventures.
NASH is the leading cause of liver disease, affecting a total of 15-30 million patients in the US, Western Europe and Japan, according to NorthSea. And one of the leading biotechs in the field, Genfit, estimates that the untapped NASH market has a massive €37Bn size.
In order to enter this attractive market, NorthSea Therapeutics will take over the development of icosabutate, an omega 3 fatty acid whose structure has been engineered to target key pathways involved in NASH. The drug has been licensed from Pronova Biopharma along with a library of other structurally engineered fatty acids (SEFAs).
Pronova has already successfully tested icosabutate in two Phase II trials, where the drug prved to be safe and effective in treating hypertriglyceridemia — high blood levels of fatty acids, which can cause cardiovascular disease. NorthSea is now getting ready to start a Phase II trial with icosabutate in NASH by the end of 2018. The €25M raised will fund all activities until the drug is all ready to go into Phase III.
Although there are no NASH drugs on the market yet, NorthSea will definitely be competing with some of the many players that have emerged in the last few years. Currently, Genfit seems to be ahead with its candidate Elafibranor in an ongoing Phase III trial, especially after its main rival, Intercept, reported 19 deaths in patients treated with its drug Ocaliva, which is currently approved for another liver disease.
But NorthSea seems to be well positioned to get into a market where, according to Genfit CSO Dean Hum, there is space for many players targeting different aspects a disease as complex as NASH. The new company counts with Rob de Ree and Patrick Round as CEO and CMO, who were key to the acquisition of the biotech company Dezima by Amgen for a massive €1Bn back in 2015.
NorthSea also has the support of Forbion, which, besides also being behind Dezima, has been successfully investing in the NASH space in the last few years. In its portfolio is Akarna, whose NASH candidate was bought by Allergan just 6 months after Forbion took part in its Series B.