The Novo Holdings-founded Danish startup Hoba Therapeutics has raised €23m ($24.7m) in a Series A financing round to develop its lead candidate HB-086.

The principal investors include Indaco Venture Partners, Medical Incubator Japan, Novo Holdings, Eir Ventures, and the Export and Investment Fund of Denmark (EIFO).

Hoba has also received investment from the European Innovation Council Accelerator funding programme under Horizon Europe.

The funding will go towards developing HB-086, a recombinant human meteorin from late preclinical development through a Phase I clinical trial. It is a non-opioid treatment that is being developed as a treatment for chronic pain disorders, said Hoba’s CEO Torsten M Madsen in an interview with Pharmaceutical Technology

Madsen added that the preclinical data for HB-086 was encouraging, especially in chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain. The company plans to conduct Phase I clinical trials in the same indication. The drug was long-acting and showed possible disease-modifying effects, said Madsen.

Conducting clinical trials for pain can be challenging, with recruitment difficulties and patient-reported pain scales. Madsen said that the company plans to address these challenges in multiple ways, first by homogenising the participant population by recruiting chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain.

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Second, the company plans to have multiple exploratory endpoints such as quantitative sensory testing (QST), and clinical and sensitivity testing to measure pain, in addition to the standard patient-reported pain scale. The Phase I trial is planned to be placebo-controlled and will be conducted in Europe, said Maddsen.

Although pain treatment is a challenging space, the high prevalence of chronic pain makes it a high reward segment for investment, said Camilla Petrycer Hansen, principal of seed investments at Novo Holdings.

This year has been hard for fundraising, with Madsen acknowledging that although Hoba was successful in securing seed funding, it did receive word that “timing was off” from some venture funds. Hansen echoed the sentiment adding that investors have been more risk-averse in recent months.

Other compounds in Hoba’s pipeline include HP-086 and HP-097, both of which are being developed to treat hearing loss, said Madsen.

Another company in Novo Holding’s portfolio is Paratek Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by the former for approximately $462m in September. Paratek’s pipeline consists of Nuzyra (omadacycline), a once-a-day oral and intravenous antibiotic.