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Metacrine Raises $22M to Advance New Drugs for Chronic Liver Disease

Xconomy San Diego — 

Metacrine, a biotech developing new drugs for treating chronic liver diseases and related metabolic diseases and disorders, said today it has raised $22 million in a Series B financing led by New Enterprise Associates, a new investor.

Proceeds will be used to advance Metacrine’s lead drug candidate, MET409, into first-in-human studies during the first half of 2018. Initial studies should be completed by the end of the year, the San Diego-based company said.

Scientific understanding of the role that bile acids play as signaling molecules have resulted in a number of new drug targets in recent years for treating chronic liver disease. While Metacrine says MET409 targets a bile acid receptor known as FXR, the company describes its lead drug candidate as a non-bile acid FXR agonist.

According to Metacrine, FXR is a key target in hepatobiliary diseases such as primary biliary cholangitis and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

In the company’s statement, Metacrine CEO Ken Song said, “We believe FXR is a compelling NASH target and that our program addresses the gaps in delivering a best-in-class molecule.”

Metacrine said the Series B financing also will be used to fund efforts to discover new drugs that target liver inflammation and fibrosis. The company also has been developing a first-in-class insulin sensitizer in collaboration with Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO).

The new round brings total funding for Metacrine to roughly $60 million, according to today’s statement. Previous investors joining the round include Arch Venture Partners, Polaris Partners, venBio, and Alexandria Venture Investments, according to a statement from the company.

As part of the financing, Carol Gallagher, an NEA partner (and San Diego Xconomist), will join Metacrine’s board of directors.