5AMVentures, OrbiMed Advisors and venBio Partners led a $45 million series A round for Neurogastrx, which is working on treatments for gastrointestinal diseases by targeting the enteric nervous system, a branch of the autonomic nervous system that controls the function of the GI tract.
Neurogastrx will use the funds to build out its management team and to bring its lead asset through proof of concept. The candidate, NG-101, is designed to treat gastroparesis, a condition that delays or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine.
Most people with gastroparesis have an idiopathic form of the disease, meaning a healthcare provider cannot identify the cause. Current treatments vary according to severity, but they do not aim to cure, only to manage symptoms.
The condition may be treated with dietary changes, surgery or an electrical stimulation device, in addition to drugs, which are used to boost gastric emptying, or to control symptoms such as nausea.
"The constellation of symptoms from which these patients suffer all originate from the gut-brain axis, the pathway by which the enteric nervous system communicates with the brain," said Cyril De Colle, Ph.D., founder and chief scientific officer at Neurogastrx. "NG-101 modulates receptors within this pathway, which we believe will improve these symptoms."
While the cause of many patients’ gastroparesis cannot be pinpointed, diabetes is the most common cause of the condition. Evoke Pharma is working on a treatment for diabetic gastroparesis, but took a dip in 2016 when its candidate failed to meet its primary endpoint in a phase 3 study.
Another upstart taking aim at the gut is Axial Biotherapeutics, which is developing gut-targeted treatments for disorders of the central nervous system, such as Alzheimer's disease. The company is working on small-molecule, biologic and bacteria-based therapies to modify the gut microbiome and elicit changes in the brain.