|BAROnova CEO Hugh Narciso|
Based: Goleta, CA
CEO: Hugh Narciso
The Scoop: The obesity market is rife with opportunity for companies that can develop safe, simple and effective methods to help patients lose weight and keep it off. And BAROnova looks to take a run in the antiobesity arena with its TransPyloric Shuttle, which has seen success in early trials and helped the California company rake in a bevy of high-profile investors. Devices in particular have taken a high seat in the market recently, and minimally invasive options from GI Dynamics, EnteroMedics and IntraPace crowd the field. Getting its foot in the door, BAROnova is confident in its device and what it means for the obesity epidemic in the U.S.
What Makes It Fierce: "Patients want something that's easily reversible," said Hugh Narciso, CEO of BAROnova, touting his company's antiobesity device, the TransPyloric Shuttle. It's a repeated notion that, in the antiobesity market, simplicity is key. With that in mind, BAROnova has forged a path with one of the simplest devices out there.
"We don't do anything to change the plumbing in any way," Narciso said of the device, which can be retrieved from a patient within 15 minutes without surgery. "The beauty of our tech is that, if you lose the weight you want to lose, you can get it taken out."
It's this patient-friendly message, coupled with the Shuttle's sheer effectiveness, as shown in early trials, that helps BAROnova stand out in a crowded list of devicemakers vying for a place in the highly marketable antiobesity field.
The device, which is inserted into the stomach via the mouth during a nonsurgical endoscopic procedure, is designed to delay gastric emptying, causing the stomach to fill up faster and stay full longer, "which is a known mechanism of action for weight loss," the company notes on its website.
In an Australian trial completed in April this year, the device resulted in an average of 50% excess weight loss after 6 months. And it showed no signs of plateauing during that time, indicating it could continue weight loss in the longer term, possibly better than surgical methods. For now, BAROnova is pushing into a pivotal trial, "prettying" up the Shuttle, in Narciso's words, and tweaking it for the commercial product.
And to help get it there, BAROnova has attracted funding from a number of high-profile investors along the way, including early investor Allergan ($AGN) and later-series backer Boston Scientific ($BSX). With additional investors in Arboretum Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, Lumira Capital, Onset Ventures and Santé Ventures, the company has raised a little less than $50 million in three financing rounds, an amount Narciso says is enough to get it through the upcoming trial. This includes a $27.3 million Series C round completed in April.
"The way we run BAROnova is very capital-efficient," Narciso said. "A lot of companies raise $300 million, $60 million--we're very proud of what we've been able to accomplish."
Narciso has spent the last 26 years at medical device and pharmaceutical startups and venture-funded projects, slapping his name on over 30 U.S. patents and a number of international patents along the way. He served at Leptos Biomedical (another obesity company), Lambda Pharmaceuticals and Miravent Medical Technologies, as well as Corvascular, whose tech for beating-heart surgery has been sold to Medtronic ($MDT). Now, it's all about BAROnova.
"If you look at all the emerging technologies for obesity, I think we have the best data," Narciso said. "We've already eclipsed what surgical technologies can do. We've got best-in-class clinical data and a safe device, so the future is looking pretty bright now for BAROnova."
What To Look For: BAROnova is making some changes to its TransPyloric Shuttle as it prepares for a pivotal trial, which it is shooting to complete by the second quarter of 2014. The company is also aiming to expand the indications of its device, possibly making it the first device with a high enough safety rating for use in adolescent patients.
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-- Michael Gibney (email | Twitter)