A drugmaker developing treatments for serious liver diseases has launched with funding from American and Japanese sources.
Redwood City, California-based Ambys Medicines announced its launch Wednesday, with a $60 million Series A funding round led by Boston-based Third Rock Ventures and Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. A further partnership with Takeda brings the company’s funding to $140 million.
The company is pursuing therapeutic modalities like cell therapy, hepatocyte transplantation and gene therapy for liver generation in patients with chronic liver diseases, as well as drug therapy to replace lost protein function.
“Major advances in the fields of gene and cell therapy and gain-of-function drug therapies, coupled with deeper understanding of liver biology, create the potential to develop drug therapies that can now restore or replace natural liver function,” said Jeffrey Tong, Ambys’ interim CEO and a venture partner with Third Rock.
Types of chronic liver disease include those induced by alcohol, hepatitis B and C, fatty liver disease, autoimmune liver disease and metabolic and inherited types, according to the Gastroenterology Center of Connecticut.
The most common form of chronic liver disease in the United States is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to the Mayo Clinic, and a potentially serious form of it is nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH. According to a report released in June by Market Research Engine, the global market for NASH treatment is expected to reach around $20 billion by 2025, including North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
Another report, released last July by Grand View Research, forecast that the market for biomarkers of NASH would reach $2.09 billion the same year, noting that about 30 percent of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurred in the United States alone. NAFLD remains undiagnosed because patients’ livers can be fatty without change in their function, but it can progress into NASH, which is characterized by inflammation and irreversible cell death. Liver biopsy is the traditional means to diagnose NAFLD and NASH, but because it is expensive and invasive, that has led to the development of non-invasive approaches like biomarker tests, according to the report.
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