Gastrointestinal diseases are among the most inconvenient types of illnesses to have, and not just because they may have you running to the loo every five minutes.

The field covers many diseases like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease and colon cancer.

And the symptoms of these diseases are a punishment in themselves including internal pain, bloating and diarrhoea.

But fear not, a handful of ASX small caps are developing treatments for these diseases.

One is Anatara Lifescience (ASX:ANR) which not only targets humans but animals as well.

Antara’s human asset is a dietary supplement it calls Gastrointestinal ReProgramming (GaRP). GaRP targets gut inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory proteins.

Anatara says pre-clinical evidence has shown it has a significant impact, but a clinical trial on humans will only begin next quarter.

Meanwhile, it’s animal health asset, Detach, attacks scour in piglets. The company is currently looking for a partner to licence and commercialise Detatch.

After a rough several months, Anatara surged from 19c to 45c over the Christmas-New Year break before retreating to 30c.


Even soldiers get gut aches

Immuron (ASX:IMC) is making oral drugs targeting several gut conditions including travellers’ diarrhoea.

And not even the US army is immune from this disease. Immuron has worked with the US Department of Defence, which provides funding to the medical centre that manufactures and tests the drug.

Like Anatara, Immuron too has gone on a run in recent weeks, gaining 12 per cent in 2019.

One reason is likely the growth in sales it has witnessed for its signature supplement Travelan. Anatara reported 98 per cent year-on-year sales growth in the first half of FY20 in North America. On a global basis it grew 55 per cent, totalling $1.7m.

On the colon cancer front, Rhythm Biosciences (ASX:RHY) is developing a blood test called ColoStat. The colon cancer detection test was developed by the CSIRO back in the 2000s and Rhythm wants to do a 1,000-patient clinical trial on it.

But Rhythm’s share price has more than halved in six months as progress has gone slower than shareholders expected.

GI Dynamics (ASX:GID) is developing a medical device called EndoBarrier, which aims to help patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity by reducing blood sugar levels and aiding weight loss. It is beginning to enrol patients into a phase one clinical trial.



Then there are the players that want to keep a healthy gut in tip top shape.

These include Bioxyne (ASX:BXN) which makes infant formula supplements. Despite not being a pure infant formula play it outperformed them all last month, gaining 21 per cent.

Another player is Probiotec (ASX:PBP), which among other things makes diet shakes and offers customised weight loss programs.

Also selling gut-friendly foods are Holista CollTech (ASX:HCT) and Eagle Health (ASX:EHH).