Metabolic biotech Metacrine gains $22M for NASH tests

money
The cash will go towards its NASH work.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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What the NASH field needs, says Genfit CEO Pascal Prigent, is something like the Hb1Ac test for diabetes.

Dubbed “Project Nightingale,” the efforts were announced amid concerns and federal inquiries into the data’s safekeeping and patient consent for use.