Rivus raises $132M series B as obesity, NASH prospects for metabolic drug heat up

After a data drop earlier this year, investors are showing their support for Rivus Pharmaceuticals’ metabolic disorder treatment pipeline, flushing the biotech with $132 million—nearly $100 million more than its first financing round.

Charlottesville, Va.-based Rivus emerged in July 2021 with $35 million and ambitions to treat metabolic disorders, including the tricky nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) indication, via weight loss. Almost half of American adults live with cardio-metabolic diseases, which can often be driven by obesity. Rivus is designing controlled metabolic accelerators (CMAs) to activate mitochondrial uncoupling, a natural process by which the body generates heat, to selectively reduce fat. It’s not the first industry attempt to reduce energy expenditure in obesity, though CMAs are made to avoid the muscle mass loss that has been seen with other therapeutics.

The $132 million series B follows a February phase 2a data drop, in which Rivus found its lead candidate showed a reduction in liver fat, a key hallmark of NASH. The results also provided some evidence that suggests improvements in metabolic parameters related to type 2 diabetes and a type of heart failure.  

The small molecule therapy, dubbed HU6, met the primary endpoint of reducing liver fat in patients who were obese with elevated liver fat. Secondary goals, which included different measures of fat loss, were achieved. Patients also saw improvements in markers of insulin resistance and inflammation, according to Rivus.

The newest financing round—which was led by RA Capital Management and included Bain Capital Life Sciences, BB Biotech AG, Longitude Capital, Medicxi and RxCapital—will help Rivus advance HU6 and build out a pipeline of other CMAs. The company recently initiated a phase 2a obesity study among patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, and intends to launch a phase 2b study of HU6 in obesity, including a subset of participants with type 2 diabetes, in 2023.