Metabolic biotech Metacrine gains $22M for NASH tests

We’ve spoken a lot about NASH this week—this year in fact. Yet Metacrine is seeing us talk about it again after completing a series B as it aims to combat the fatty liver disorder.

You know the drill: Potential tens of billions in market share from next decade; about a dozen biopharma from phase preclinical to 3 are at work using several different MOAs; caution from some on diagnostics and targets (i.e., liver fat and fibrosis) alongside some mixed results, and so on.

The San Diego biotech, which is very early-stage, is hoping to have the best-in-class FXR program (though it will need to prove that in human testing ahead), and is following the route set by some others, such as Gilead and its phase 2 FXR agonist GS-9674.

RELATED: After Synta merger, Madrigal’s NASH drug hits liver fat in midstage test

Metacrine now hopes to join the ranks of those in the NASH race with a $22 million series B by new investor New Enterprise Associates along with existing investors ARCH, Polaris, venBio, and Alexandria Venture Investments.

Since starting out two years ago with a focus on diabetes and NASH, the biotech has received $60 million in funding.

RELATED: Mystery solved: Star biotech team rallies behind a $36M diabetes spinout from Salk

The company says that over the course of the past year it has been pushing on with its lead asset, MET409, an oral non-bile acid FXR agonist, into late stage IND-enabling studies: the first tests in humans should come in the middle of next year.

Metacrine says MET409 has “been purposefully designed to have a differentiated profile to position it as best-in-class for efficacy and safety.”

The company is also targeting other forms of liver inflammation and fibrosis, as well as using the cash boost toward an FGF1 program, a first-in-class insulin sensitizer, which is in collab with diabetes major Novo Nordisk.

Ken Song, M.D., president and CEO of Metacrine, said: “NASH represents one of the largest unmet medical needs in medicine today. We believe FXR is a compelling NASH target and that our program addresses the gaps in delivering a best-in-class molecule. In addition to NASH, we have outlined a strategy to pursue FXR in other clinical indications.”