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Gelesis brings in $12M to advance its obesity pill

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Boston startup Gelesis has picked up $12 million in venture funding, cash that'll support its novel approach to obesity treatment: a pill that disperses expanding particles in the gut to make patients feel full.

The latest funds come courtesy of the Pritzker/Vlock Family Office, founder PureTech Ventures and some undisclosed backers, the company said. The biotech plans to spend its cash on advancing Gelesis100, a capsule that releases tiny particles made up of a food-based polymer that expands in water, curbing appetites and potentially providing a weight-loss solution for patients with obesity or diabetes.

In an early clinical study, the treatment demonstrated safe and effective in helping people feel full, and now Gelesis is gearing up to release results from a placebo-controlled trial that will light the way for future development, CEO Yishai Zohar told Xconomy. Without getting into details, Zohar said his company is "very pleased" with the results, and Gelesis' $12 million raise will bankroll the next stage.

Developing and marketing treatments for obesity is a field marked by failures, whether due to dangerous side effects that alarm regulators or so-so efficacy that makes commercialization a challenge. Gelesis believes its solution has the potential to skirt those common pratfalls. By limiting stomach capacity, Gelesis100 acts like a surgical procedure, but without the need for an invasive procedure. And, unlike small-molecule drugs, its dispersed polymers are digested just like food with no need for spikes in toxicity or modulation of CNS pathways.

Alongside the latest funding, Gelesis has recruited Rob Armstrong, former Eli Lilly ($LLY) vice president for external R&D, to come aboard as chief business officer. Armstrong joins Gelesis Chairman John LaMattina, Pfizer's ($PFE) former R&D chief, among the biotech's leadership.

"We're very excited both by Gelesis100's development to date and by its path forward to commercialization, as supported by this funding," LaMattina said in a statement. "At a time when tremendous unmet needs exist in the treatment of obesity and diabetes, we see this as a critical opportunity to advance a safe and effective treatment with potential to dramatically improve outcomes."

- read the announcement
- check out the Xconomy story

Special Reports: The 2010 Fierce 15 - Gelesis | Obesity drugs: Where are we now?

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