Gelesis has secured $84.6m new investment to support the US launch of its oral, non-systemic, superabsorbent hydrogel, dubbed Plenity, for weight management in overweight and obese adults.

The biotechnology firm has secured a total of $63.4m in an equity funding round, led by UK-based private equity firm Vitruvian Partners and the funding round also included other investors.

Gelesis is engaged in developing an advanced hydrogel platform technology for treating obesity and other chronic diseases related to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

In addition to the equity funding, the company has also won a $12.9m (€11.7m) grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), regulated by the Puglia Region of Italy, and has signed agreements for long-term, low-interest loan of $8.3m.

Gelesis founder and chief executive officer Yishai Zohar said: “We are delighted to begin this partnership with Vitruvian, whose mission of driving rapid growth and change across industries is very much aligned with our approach to launching this first-of-its-kind product that could potentially make a difference in the lives of people struggling with excess weight.

“With this new capital, we are well-positioned to enhance our strategic launch initiatives and leverage our early commercial experience as we prepare for large scale commercial availability of Plenity in the U.S.”

With the current funding, the company has secured approximately $100m investment, which will be used to commercialise its Plenity in the second half of 2020.

Plenity works in a mechanical mode of action

The company’s Plenity has been approved by the US FDA, as an aid for weight management in overweight and obese adults with a body mass index (BMI) from 25 to 40kg/m2, used along with diet and exercise.

It has developed Plenity by cross-linking modified cellulose and citric acid, two naturally derived building blocks, to create a three-dimensional matrix.

Plenity rapidly absorbs water in the stomach to increase the volume and elasticity of the contents in the stomach and small intestine and induces a feeling of fullness and satiety.

The hydrogel is partially broken down by enzymes, resulting in disorganisation of its three-dimensional structures, and losing its absorption capacity, after reaching the large intestine.

The large intestine reabsorbs the water and eliminates the remaining cellulosic material through natural digestive processes.

Gelesis claimed that its Plenity is considered a medical device, based on its mechanical mode of action, which is consistent with mechanobiology constructs, in achieving the intended primary purpose.