Deals and Data

Deals and Data, Feb. 24-Mar. 9, 2009

Deals and Data
Feb 24-Mar 09, 2009

Congratulations are in order to Novalar, who moved forward with their efforts to take a bite out of post-surgical dental pain with the official launch of their OraVerse, which reverses dental anesthesia. You can read a Business Journal article about that here.

Victory Pharmaceuticals landed an, um, win with their whopper of a $45 million venture financing (PDF). Led by Essex Woodlands Health Ventures with existing investor Ampersand Ventures in on the round, proceeds will be used to support future growth initiatives, including product acquisitions for the pain-focused specialty pharmaceutical company.

Gen-Probe went down to the Bank of America ATM around the corner and pulled out a cool $170 million. Or at least that's what we imagine when we read a press release about Gen-Probe borrowing $170 million via a new line of credit from Bank of America.  If you'd like to compare your rate to Gen Probe's, they are paying interest on the one-year, $180 million revolving credit facility at a floating rate 0.6 percent above the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which was approximately 0.5 percent when the release posted. Maybe your FICO score isn't quite as high as Gen-Probe's; but are you buying a $132 million biotech company? Investor's Business Daily did a recent feature on the company here.

And Gen-Probe and Victory aren't the only ones bringing home the bacon in stormy seas. Regulus Therapeutics, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Isis Pharmaceuticals said that Regulus raised $20 million in a Series A financing, solely funded by Isis and Alnylam, which also includes a provision leading Regulus towards sovereignty.  Regulus has a broad patent estate with over 900 issued and pending patents, a solid understanding of micro RNA biology, as well as unique proven chemistry and technological know-how to discover and develop micro RNAs-based therapeutics to treat diseases. Isis is inching toward profitability, according to this profile in Xconomy, who also references PE Hub in its story about Stemgent, a startup in Cambridge, MA, and San Diego that makes materials for stem cell research labs, who has apparently raised $14 million in venture capital.  The company’s backers include Health Care Ventures and Morgenthaler Ventures, according to PE Hub and, which also recognized "an all-star roster of supporters on its scientific advisory board, including MIT’s Bob Langer, Bob Weinberg, and Rudolf Jaenisch; Harvard University’s Douglas Melton; Harvard Medical School’s Leonard Zon; and Sheng Ding of the Scripps Research Institute."

Almost everyone in the stem cell community has been applauding Obama's decision to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, including International Stem Cell Corp. Speaking of stem cells, Medistem filed an amicus brief on the patentability of life science inventions; you can read a blog item to that here. And while were on government funding, don't forget that RetroVirox landed an NIH grant to study HIV to the tune of $220,000.

Xconomy also did an interesting profile of new stealthy specialty pharma company Evoke Pharma, with another all star crew led by Cam Garner with Ken Widder as a board member. You can read that profile here. And while you're at it, here's a rundown of recent stories in Xconomy about Vertex, Regulus, Evoke, Optimer and Otonomy, while here's another update with notes on Pacira and Histogen.

Optimer Pharmaceuticals also raised $32.9 million in a direct offering of common stock … and while we're on the subject of investment, Pacira Pharmaceuticals ($85 million) and BrainCells ($50.6m) were recognized by FierceBiotech as being part of the top 20 VC deals in 2008.

Ambrx expanded its major collaboration with Merck Serono to develop Ambrx's ARX424 to treat multiple sclerosis, which was created in Ambrx's labs, marking the second partnered product between the two firms … Here's an interesting profile of Nereus PharmaceuticalsAethlon Medical signed a manufacturing agreement with Bioserv Corporation for manufacturing of its Aethlon Hemopurifier system … Life Technologies' Invitrogen division has landed a series of awards for its packaging and design on its products; more info here.

Just months after getting its first product FDA approved, Cypress Biosciences says it has acquired a personalized medicine technology from Cellatope to help identify and diagnose lupus disease, and other debilitating autoimmune disorders. Cypress and similarly tree-titled partner Forest Laboratories expect to have Savella, their recently approved fibromyalgia treatment, on the market in May. Lupus is a tough disease to treat; Biogen Idec and Genentech said a recent trial couldn’t prove their Rituxan to be effective against the disease while La Jolla Pharmaceuticals is looking at its options after a Phase III trial of its lupus treatment couldn't prove it to be successful.

Researchers at Genomatica say they have developed a bio-manufacturing process for methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), a commonly used industrial solvent previously made with petroleum-based feedstocks, proving these chemicals can be manufactured inside organisms using renewable feedstocks.

Shares in Somaxon fell after the U.S. Food and Drug agency said it wanted more information about the company's Silenor treatment for insomnia but that it didn't need more trials … Alphatec Holdings, Inc., the parent company of medical device company Alphatec Spine, signed a license agreement with Helix Point, LLC, giving Alphatec Spine rights to Helifix and Helifuse, concepts for two interspinous devices to treat lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS).

And BIOCOM's South Pacific member Hawaii Biotech reports that it showed strong Phase I results in healthy volunteers for its West Nile Virus vaccine (PDF). Cytori Therapeutics showed its adult-stem cells were able to prevent kidney damage in a preclinical study, as well as data showing its ability to use adult stem cells to treat heart attacks safely. Nanogen has signed an end user license with Quest Diagnostics for Quest to use Nanogen's technology for in vitro human diagnostics. Nanogen also signed a licensing and supply agreement with HandyLab … and Metabasis published preclinical data on its MB07811 to treat hyperlipidemia.

And in our northern bureau, CytRx said it started a Phase 2/3 adaptive clinical to study its molecular chaperone regulator drug candidate arimoclomol in a subset of patients with the inherited or familial form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease). The clinical trial is being financially supported by grants from the ALS Association and the FDA's Office of Orphan Products Development.

Cortex Pharmaceuticals said preclinical studies University of California Irvine showed its Ampakine molecules could hold promise to treat memory loss in Huntington’s disease patients. The studies were performed in mice harboring the genetic mutation found in humans that is responsible for Huntington’s disease, showing that treating mice with the drug produced dramatic increases inthe brain’s chemical processes for creating and storing memories.

And finally, congratulations are in order for Irvine-based IDM Pharma, Inc. said that the European Commission has granted a Centralized marketing authorization for MEPACT(R) (mifamurtide, L-MTP-PE) to treat patients with non-metastatic, resectable osteosarcoma, a rareand often fatal bone tumor that typically affects children and young adults. The marketing authorization allows MEPACT to be marketed in the 27 Member States of the European Union, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

--Tim Ingersoll

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