Biotech & Health

Vibrant raises $7.5M for a drug-free mechanical pill to treat constipation


Vibrant's mechanical pill and charging case.
Image Credits: Vibrant

Vibrant, a medical technology company that’s developed a disposable vibrating pill to treat chronic constipation, today announced its Series E for $7.5 million. The company is based in Tel Aviv and is lead by Lior Ben-Tsur, a startup veteran. Since its founding in 2007, the company has raised a total of $25 million. This round is being led by Unorthodox Ventures, with participation by Sequoia.

Vibrant, which is going through its third and final round of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing, plans to launch in the U.S. in the next year. The capsules are about the size of a multi-vitamin, Ben-Tsur said.

“Patients are used to taking drugs day in and day out, so this wouldn’t be a different experience in that regard, but this pill doesn’t have any medication,” Ben-Tsur said. While Ben-Tsur is not a founder, he was brought on about 10 years ago to serve as the company’s CEO.

According to a study published in the American Gastroenterological Association, about 16% of American adults suffer from constipation, and the number jumps to 33.5% in adults between the ages of 60-101. Also, constipation is 1.5 times more common in women than in men.

The most common way to treat constipation is through the use of over-the-counter or prescription drugs, most of which target the nerves in the colon, which in turn prompt a bowel movement. The Vibrant Capsule, however, “once swallowed, kickstarts the natural impulses of your intestinal wall to contract, relax and get things moving again — without the use of chemicals,” the company said in a statement.

In addition to being medication-free, the value of Vibrant over laxatives, according to the company, is that the bowel movements are more controlled, whereas laxatives can cause unexpected diarrhea and long-term side effects. Also, while laxatives are meant to be taken on a daily basis, the disposable capsule can be used anywhere from 2-5 times per week. The capsules connect to an app that automatically records when you take a pill, and upon having a bowel movement, the person notes it in the app, which then sends a monthly report to the patient’s doctor, allowing them to monitor and adjust the treatment protocol as necessary.

In a 2019 human trial organized by Vibrant, 250 patients were enrolled in a double-blind study (Vibrant Capsule = 133, placebo = 117). The results showed that those who took the Vibrant Capsule were more likely to experience a bowel movement within three hours. The trial details and the results were published in the journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility.

Several years ago a group of doctors and engineers performed a test in a live pig’s colon, and accidentally pinched the side of the colon wall. As a result, they noticed that the pig promptly had a bowel movement. The test was actually about something totally unrelated to constipation, and the results were a random discovery. To replicate the effects, the team created a vibrating belt that when worn for about three hours, would also cause a bowel movement.

“The problem is no one wants to shake for three hours to have a bowel movement,” said Ben-Tsur. With this information in hand, the group set out to develop a treatment for constipation in humans that would produce similar results but where the vibrations couldn’t be felt. There were other mechanical capsules already on the market, such as the Smart Pill, a mechanical diagnostic capsule that reports on generalized motility through the entire digestive tract and aids doctors in diagnosing motility disorders, so the team knew that people could safely swallow and excrete capsules.

8 VCs agree: Behavioral support and remote visits make digital health a strong bet for 2021

According to Ben-Tsur, there hasn’t been any development in the treatment of constipation in the last 20 years — the treatment protocol has continued to focus on medication. When he learned about the market size, the lack of innovation in the space and the potential, he was convinced that he wanted to lead Vibrant.

Vibrant plans on using this round of funding to take the capsule to market in the U.S. — its first market. The company is currently speaking with healthcare providers and insurance companies so that the capsule will be covered by insurance starting at the time of launch. The Smart Pill, while only used once as a diagnostic test, is still not covered and costs, on average, about $1,400 out of pocket. Ben-Tsur and his team aim to offer a product that is accessible. “From day one we were on a mission to build something that wouldn’t be more expensive than existing drugs,” he said.

Early Stage is the premier “how-to” event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product-market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion. Use code “TCARTICLE” at checkout to get 20% off tickets right here.

More TechCrunch

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI