Logical Therapeutics Snags $10M to Make Pain Relievers Safer on the Gut

Xconomy Boston — 

Logical Therapeutics has secured $10 million to pursue its idea for a safer way to relieve chronic arthritis pain.

The Waltham, MA-based company has nailed down the $10 million out of a financing round that could be worth as much as $16.9 million over time, according to a regulatory filing today with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The document doesn’t say who invested, and Logical Therapeutics president Carolyn Green said she couldn’t comment at this time.

The last time Logical announced a fundraising was in June 2007 when it pulled in $30 million from SV Life Sciences, Burrill & Company, Novo A/S, Sigvion Capital, and PA Early Stage Partners. Last month, the company said it had started a mid-stage clinical trial of a new formulation of naproxen (marketed as Naprosyn, Aleve and other brand names) that is supposed to be safer on the stomach and gastrointestinal tract than the older form of the drug.

While non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are workhorse pain relievers sold over the counter to millions of people, particularly for chronic osteoarthritis, they can cause gastric ulcers, which end up costing the U.S. health system $4 billion a year, according to the company. Bleeding ulcers and other complications from these drugs are thought to kill 20,000 people a year in the U.S., the company says. Pharmaceutical companies sought a safer alternative for the gut for years, a quest that gave rise to products like Merck’s rofecoxib (Vioxx) and Pfizer’s valdecoxib (Bextra). Those products were withdrawn from the market after researchers saw links to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Ever since that debacle, use of drugs like Vioxx and Bextra from the same class, known as COX-2 inhibitors or Coxibs, “has been severely restricted and the coxib pipeline evaporated,” Logical says on its website. “As a result, patients are again receiving nonselective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs and facing gastrointestinal toxicity risks. Prescribing NSAID therapy has become a complex balancing act as physicians evaluate a patient’s cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks.”

Logical Therapeutics’ idea is to bioengineer a version of naproxen that’s inactive in the gastrointestinal tract, but once it is absorbed into the bloodstream will quickly release naproxen to relieve pain. Last month, Logical started enrolling the first of 534 patients into a clinical trial that will directly compare its candidate to standard naproxen over a 12-week period. The study will enroll patients with arthritic knees, and the main goal is to see whether the new drug can reduce the rate of stomach ulcers.

The company has said it hopes to have completed enrollment in the trial, called Nature, sometime in the fourth quarter of 2010.

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