Gastric bypass surgery in a pill startup Allurion gets $27 million as it pursues FDA approval

Allurion, a Boston-based startup offering a non-invasive gastric balloon by swallowing a pill, has gained $27 million in Series C funding from previous investor Romulus Capital, with new participation from Cogepa Investments and IDO Investments, an innovation firm based in Oman.

There are a lot of gastric bypass solutions and other implantable devices out there for weight loss, but you usually need surgery to insert them. Allurion’s device comes in the form of a pill and takes about 15 minutes to inflate in the stomach after consumption. The device will stay put in the stomach for about 4 months, a good amount determined to help the overweight person shed a significant amount of fat. The balloon then opens up right around theĀ four-month mark and the body excretes it.

Allurion has gained approval for this device, called the Elipse Balloon, in parts of Europe and the Middle East so far. Traction in both places, but particularly the Middle East, has been good, according to Romulus Capital’s Krishna Gupta, who says Allurion has treated thousands of patients in the past year. However, he sees more promise in the U.S. and possibly China.

“We are having initial conversations in China, particularly in Shanghai,” Gupta told me. “When I talk to people in China it’s not even people who are obese, they’re just mildly overweight and just want to help them use this to help them stay in shape. I’m seeing a lot of interest.”

The Elipse Balloon has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and it’s not clear if it meets U.S. standards of safety yet. It’s also unclear if it will meet with approval as simply a weight loss device or will only be approved for the very obese.

However, there is some precedent for this type of treatment. Rival company Obalon provides a similar balloon in a pill technology and has already met with FDA approval. The main difference between these two companies as far as I can tell is that Obalon requires an endoscopic procedure for removal from your physician, whereas Allurion’s device is simply swallowed and then excreted when it’s done.

Allurion would like to take on Obalon and other device makers in the U.S. and elsewhere. Its first task with this new round of funding will be to scale the business to meet demand around the world and pursue a U.S. clinical trial as it seeks approval through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Allurion previously raised about $10 million, bringing the total raised so far to just over $37 million.