ObsEva taps A-list investors for $60M as pipeline nears late-phase trials

ObsEva CEO Ernest Loumaye

ObsEva has raised $60 million in a Series B round backed by a handful of big-name investors. The fundraising gives ObsEva's finances a boost at a time when programs in its women's reproductive health-focused pipeline are on the cusp of entering late-phase trials.

Geneva, Switzerland-based ObsEva has three mid-phase programs in its pipeline, one of which was bought in late last week in a deal with Kissei Pharmaceutical. With the Kissei-partnered program due to enter Phase IIb next year, an internal asset already advancing through a pair of mid-stage trials and plans to move another drug into the clinic, ObsEva has decided now is the time to top up its bank balance. The reproductive health specialist has persuaded some notable financiers to invest, with New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and OrbiMed both coming on board for the Series B.

NEA and OrbiMed sit alongside HBM Healthcare Investments and Rock Springs Capital on the list of new investors. Existing investors Sofinnova Partners, Sofinnova Ventures, Novo Ventures and MS Ventures, the VC wing of Merck KGaA, also chipped in cash. The existing investors previously teamed up in 2013 to funnel $32 million into ObsEva in a Series A round. Since then, ObsEva has advanced its internal pipeline, culminating in OBE001 being tested as a treatment for preterm labor and enabler of assisted reproductive technology (ART) in Phase II trials.

OBE001, the big hope of ObsEva's internal pipeline, is an oxytocin antagonist, a mechanism of action that the company thinks give it the potential to inhibit uterine contractions. When given to pregnant women during a key time window, ObsEva reckons such inhibition could prevent preterm births and all of the complications they entail. ObsEva is tipping the same inhibition process to increase the success rate of ART by preventing uterine contractions that are thought to expel the embryo from the uterus.

Late last week, ObsEva supplemented its pipeline through a deal with Kissei, which has handed over the ex-Asia rights to KLH-2109, a treatment for endometriosis. Kissei has already run three Phase IIa trials of KLH-2109 in Japan, setting ObsEva up to start a Phase IIb study by the middle of next year. ObsEva thinks KLH-2109 may be able to treat endometriosis, a condition affecting the uterus, by stopping the endogenous gonadotropin-releasing hormone from activating pituitary receptors. The expectation is that affecting this process will result in estradiol staying in the low-normal range.

The team at ObsEva is well placed to judge the potential of such programs. CEO Ernest Loumaye and other key members of the team had central roles in the success of PregLem, a Swiss biotech that won approval in Europe for a treatment for uterine fibroids before selling up to Gedeon Richter.

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