Swiss biotech raises $16m for ‘undelivery mechanism’ in rare liver disease

pharmafile | September 18, 2019 | News story | Research and Development liver disease, versantis 

A new method from Swiss Biotech Versantis promises to give far better immediate care and offer a treatment for a couple of rare forms of liver disease that leave patients without options aside from transplantation.

The company just earned $16 million in Series B funding to put its platform through first-in-human and efficacy trials in small subsets of the disease that kills around 2 million people every year.

Versantis Co-founder and COO Meriam Kabbaj, said: “This is a very disruptive technology. Liver disease is only growing and causes many deaths year after year and so far there haven’t been any effective treatments.”

Versantis’s platform works by taking a popular and well-researched drug delivery method called liposomes and turning it on its head to create what CEO Vince Forster called an “undelivery mechanism”.

Rather than delivering drugs, it takes out toxins – two litres of liquid filled with microscavangers or their VS-01 drug are administered into a patient’s belly. The scavengers would swoop up ammonia and other toxins the liver can no longer metabolise and then that solution is simply taken out.

Kabbaj added: “What we can provide is the same efficiency as dialysis, but the main difference is that it’s much safer and it can be implemented very early on.”

Although liver disease is one of the most common conditions in the developed world, Versantis currently focuses on niche areas within it such as decompensated liver cirrhosis that can cause a form of diminished brain function called hepatic encephalopathy; and acute-on-chronic liver failure, the more severe disease for which they’ve received FDA orphan drug status in 2017.

A phase 1 trial promises some efficacy data and the $16m garnered more recently will fund phase 2a trials.

Versantis is not the only player getting into the fast-growing liver game as other biotechs such as Alentis and Belgium’s Promethera Biosciences collected as much as $44 million for their treatments in end-stage liver disease.

Versantis is currently also looking at broader applications for the drug, including for broader forms of liver disease and additionally in a condition in infants that potentially causes build-ups in ammonia and further down the line for treating opioid overdose.

Nik Kiran

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