The obesity problem is one that is affecting a growing number of people globally. With both device and drug companies looking to take on the challenge of combating the problem, Allurion Technologies Inc. has set its sights on advancing a new approach in the U.S.
Now, the Natick, Mass.-based company has scored $34 million in new funding through a securities financing and a growth capital term loan. The round was led by Novalis Lifesciences and Romulus Capital, with participation from Ido Investments and ex-Covidien CEO Jose Almeida. It also includes a growth capital term loan from Bridge Bank. The company has earmarked the funds for continued growth internationally and, subject to obtaining FDA approval, launching its weight loss program in the U.S.
Specifically, the company has developed the Elipse Balloon and a Bluetooth body composition scale that pairs with its smartphone app. The balloon is designed to be placed and removed without surgery, endoscopy or anesthesia. It is swallowed in a capsule during an outpatient office visit and is designed to remain in the stomach for about four months, after which it opens and passes naturally from the body. More than 20,000 devices have been distributed in 25 countries.
“Allurion’s cutting-edge approach to one of the world’s largest unmet medical needs has the company poised for long-term success,” said Marijn Dekkers, founder and chairman of Novalis Lifesciences and former CEO of Bayer and Thermo Fisher Scientific. “I believe that the company’s rapid growth is further evidence that its weight loss program has an attractive value proposition for both consumers and physicians.”
The company noted previously that it had completed enrollment in five months for ENLIGHTEN, its pivotal trial for FDA approval.
“I think it’s a combination of our company going after what is the largest unmet medical need in the world,” company CEO Shantanu Gaur told BioWorld MedTech when asked about the high-profile backers. He added that 2 billion people worldwide currently are overweight as an emphasis. That number is expected to grow to 3 billion in the next 10 years.
He went on to explain that he thought the investors believed the company has a disruptive, integrated approach to weight loss that hasn’t been tested and trialed to this point. “This is sort of a first-of-its-kind approach to weight loss.” In addition, the company has experienced great growth – in excess of 100% – over the years, indicating that clinicians are happy with the approach.
He also highlighted that the company’s success with the financing points to the modern consumer, who is researching his or her options on new interventions and experiences. “And more companies, I think, over the next five to 10 years will start treating them not just as patients inside a very complex health care system, but actual consumers who are choosing to go forward with one product or experience over another.” To that end, the consumer is at the center of what his company does. “And we will change our strategy, our outlook on the obesity epidemic as the consumer changes his or her outlook on the epidemic and how they want to treat the disease.”
When asked why the clinical trial completed enrollment so quickly, Gaur replied that there are 70 million adults with obesity in the U.S. at this time. By 2030, that number is expected to be about 100 million. “So, the scope of the problem is quite vast, and it’s only getting worse,” he explained, adding that weight loss is the number one concern on consumers’ minds when looking to make a positive impact on their lifestyle.
Looking to other markets, the approach holds promise. “So far, I’d say the feedback that we’ve received from the close to 20,000 people [who] we have treated has been that the overall experience is quite easy; it’s very convenient; it leads to a life-changing amount of weight loss. On average, our consumers will lose 30 pounds of weight over four months, so this is a substantial change to their overall health.”
Clinicians are excited because the procedure does not require a surgical suite or endoscopy setting, fitting seamlessly into the workflow. In fact, Gaur noted, the solution has simplified their days.
In addition, both the patients and physicians like the digital part of the platform, he added. The former interact with the scale and the app that syncs all of their weight-loss data, which they can share with their doctors. “And so, the digital part of our platform, combined with the nutritional part closes the loop,” he said.
“Within our indication around the world – body mass index greater than 27 – we are able to access close to a billion people. So, it’s quite a substantial opportunity and quite a large population to go after.”
In terms of pursuing markets, Gaur noted that the company is commercial in 30 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This year, the company expects to expand to Latin America, Asia and the U.S., in addition to the rest of North America.
“But, we won’t make the mistake of what some of our predecessors and competition have done, which is spread themselves too thin, despite having a commercial presence in 50 to 60 countries by the end of 2020, we’re really going to focus on individual account productivity with a focus on making our physician users and our consumers – one at a time – as successful as can be.”
When asked how the product can lead to savings in terms of the health care system, Gaur labeled these potential savings as “substantial.” In the U.S., for example, people pay between $25,000 and $30,000 for a weight loss surgery. For nonsurgical, but still invasive, procedures, the cost is still between $8,000 and $10,000. “We will come into the U.S. market … at a price point for consumers that’s about half of that $8,000 to $10,000.” That’s because aspects such as the endoscopy and anesthesia have been cut out, and the experience can be done in an outpatient setting. “And that’s been one of the keys to our success internationally – we’ve been able to grow so quickly because not only have we developed an experience that consumers love, an experience that physicians can fit into their day, we’ve made it affordable by making it so simple.”