NorthSea raises $40M to wrap up phase 2b NASH trial

NorthSea Therapeutics CEO Rob de Ree (left) and Chief Medical Officer Patrick Round (NorthSea Therapeutics/Forbion)

NorthSea Therapeutics has raised a $40 million (€36 million) series B round to wrap up its phase 2b nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) trial. The financing comes months after NorthSea enrolled the first NASH patient in the trial of its structurally engineered fatty acid icosabutate.

Dutch biotech NorthSea put itself on the map late in 2017 when it raised a €25 million series A. The financing round reunited some of the leaders and investors behind Dezima and Akarna, which were respectively bought by Amgen and Allergan, with the goal of repositioning one-time clinical-phase hypertriglyceridemia candidate icosabutate as a treatment for NASH.

A little more than two years later, NorthSea has topped up its bank balance with a series B round. VenBio Partners led the series B round with fellow new backer Sofinnova Investments and existing financiers Forbion, Novo Seeds, New Science Ventures and BioGeneration Ventures.

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The series B round adds U.S. VCs to NorthSea’s formerly Europe-centric investor syndicate and gives the Dutch biotech the money to advance and expand its pipeline. NorthSea enrolled the first of a forecast 264 NASH patients in its phase 2b in the second half of last year, putting it on track to finish the study in 2021. 

That timeline puts NorthSea well behind the leaders in the NASH race, which could see approvals in the U.S. this year, but the people bankrolling the biotech think it is positioned to claim a slice of the closely watched, currently untapped market. 

“We are confident there is room for multiple successful approaches with the right cardiometabolic profile. We are excited about icosabutate based on its impressive clinical data in patients with dyslipidaemia, and robust preclinical data in a number of models of NASH,” Richard Gaster, principal at venBio Partners, said in a statement. 

Armed with $40 million in series B funds, NorthSea is now equipped to finish the phase 2b while moving two additional candidates into the clinic. A phase 1 trial of dyslipidemia asset SEFA-1024 is expected to start in the second half of 2020. SEFA-6179, a potential treatment for parenteral nutrition-associated liver disease, is due to join icosabutate and SEFA-1024 in the clinic in 2021.

The candidates all derive from assets NorthSea licensed from Pronova BioPharma Norge, a developer of marine-originated omega-3 derived pharmaceutical products that spawned Lovaza before being bought by BASF. NorthSea moved for the assets after identifying the potential for supplementation with fatty acids to affect liver fat and other variables relevant to patients with NASH.

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