Startup scPharmaceuticals snags $16M for self-dosed injectables

The SenseCore Minipump--Courtesy of scPharmaceuticals

Lexington, MA's scPharmaceuticals has had an interesting trip to its Series A. After SpringLeaf, a venture-backed biotech working to develop a wearable pump for biologics, burned through its financing without ever making it into the clinic, management regrouped, eyeing a similar goal but with simpler technology and launching a new company last year. Their early work was promising enough to convince 5AM Ventures and Lundbeckfond Ventures, and now scPharmaceuticals is striking out with $16 million and a plot to succeed where SpringLeaf failed.

The biotech's potential centers on a technology called SenseCore, developed by Switzerland's Sensile Medical and promising to allow for the convenient subcutaneous delivery of injectable drugs without the need for hospitalization. Using the micropump, scPharmaceuticals is developing a drug-device combo using a novel formulation of the long-generic cardio treatment furosemide, which, at the high doses needed to treat heart failure, is currently only available via IV. Secondly, the biotech is working up a SenseCore-paired cephalosporin antibiotic, looking to provide a convenient alternative to intramuscular and intravenous dosing.

And ​scPharmaceuticals CEO Pieter Muntendam, who spent a year at the helm of SpringLeaf, said his new company's pitch is a simple one: Self-administering common injectable drugs would cut back on emergency room visits and hospital admissions, which reduces costs for payers, providers and patients alike. SpringLeaf bit the dust with a similar value proposition, of course, but Muntendam said his new venture learned from that company's mistakes and is working with a more cost-effective device.

"From the payer perspective, this is lower than the replacement cost," Muntendam told FierceBiotech. "You actually take money out of the system while making things easier and more comfortable for patients."

The SenseCore system is a dime-sized, two-component piece of plastic that eschews expanding batteries, gas-releasing pumps and drug-pushing springs in favor of a simple rotating shaft. The electronic device pairs a reusable power source with a needle-insertion mechanism that doubles disposable drug container, designed with the patient in mind to allow for at-home dosing. It's the product "beautiful, precision engineering" that serves as an example of "why the Swiss are such great watchmakers," Muntendam said.

Now, after a successful meeting with the FDA, scPharmaceuticals is planning to get its furosemide candidate into the clinic later this year, planning the same fate for its antibiotic while keeping its eye out for other established therapies that could benefit from the SenseCore treatment, Muntendam said.

"When I first got into the pharmaceutical industry in the '80s, we expected most of the drugs we knew would be replaced at some point," he said, but tried-and-trues like statins and aspirin have endured and remain cornerstone treatments. "Now, if we can make them easier to use, safer to use, more comfortable to use, we can probably get even more of a life cycle out of them."

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