Allurion offers gastric bypass surgery in a pill

Just swallow a pill and it expands into a balloon in your stomach so you don’t feel hungry. No gastric bypass, no surgery required. Sounds magical, but Boston-based Allurion has created the only non-invasive gastric balloon for obesity.

Gastric balloons are nothing new, but you usually need anesthesia and a doctor to insert them. That makes the whole process expensive and prohibitive to anyone afraid of undergoing the knife just to lose some weight.

Allurion’s Elipse device makes the process more comfortable with one quick gulp.

The little pill is already selling in Europe, where it’s easier to get approval for medical devices than in the States and is launching in Kuwait soon. But Allurion is seeking FDA approval and plans on conducting a clinical trial in the U.S. next year to bolster its case for approval here.

The pill takes about 15 minutes to inflate in the stomach after consumption and is supposed to stay there for about 4 months, or a good amount determined to help the overweight person shed a significant amount of fat. The balloon then opens up right around the four-month mark and the body then excretes it.

Shantanu Gaur and Samuel Levy started noodling on the idea of a better gastric balloon about seven years ago while at Harvard Medical School.

“Obesity is one of the biggest unmet needs in our healthcare system,” Gaur said of why he wanted to focus on creating a better medical device for the overweight. “There seem to be very few options between dieting and exercise and weight loss devices across the spectrum and we figured it would be something very beneficial to consumers if we could come up with a product that could serve as an intermediary between diet and exercise and surgery.”

The prospect of a pill without the drugs and surgery would dramatically lower the cost and cut out many complications associated with the procedure. Inserting a gastric balloon has the potential to damage the esophagus and risks infection from bacteria. Anesthesia and the time it takes a doctor to insert the device also adds up in costs.

Removing the need for drugs and simply swallowing a pill instead of requiring tubes shoved down your throat could make the whole thing much cheaper for those wanting to try adding a semi-permanent water blob to their insides.

Allurion just closed on another $6 million in funding led by Boston VC firm Romulus, leading to a total of $17 million raised to date from Romulus and various angel investors.