Life sciences briefing: Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007

(UPDATED at 6:40pm PT: See below.)

Featured companies: Nereus Phramaceuticals, KFx Medical, NeuroMed Pharmaceuticals, Adnexus Therapeutics, Masimo, Biofisica, Aegera Therapeutics, LymphoSign, InfuScience, Palmetto Infusion ServicesNereus Pharma raises $45M for ocean-derived cancer drugs — San Diego’s Nereus Pharmaceuticals, a biotech that searches for cancer drugs in marine microbes, raised $45 million in a follow-on to its fourth funding round.

The company features an all-star lineup of investors, which includes BankInvest, Roche Venture Fund, Astellas Venture Management, Boston Life Science Venture Corporation, Taiwan Global Biofund, Eminent Venture Capital, HBM BioVentures, Alta Partners, Forward Ventures, Advent International, GIMV, InterWest Partners and Pacific Venture Group.

From the press release:

The proceeds from the financing will be drawn down in two tranches and used to complete Phase I and begin Phase II clinical trials for Nereus’ two drug candidates. The first compound, NPI-2358, is being evaluated for the treatment of solid tumors and lymphomas in Phase I clinical trials. It is a potent, selective tumor vascular disrupting agent (VDA), a class of compounds that represents a novel approach to disrupting the intrinsic tumor blood flow, which leads to tumor cell death. NPI-2358 has favorable preclinical characteristics, such as a longer duration of action on tumor blood flow, activity against multi-drug resistant tumor cell lines and a favorable preclinical toxicology profile. The compound is one of 200 analogues that were produced after finding activity and novel chemistry from a marine fungal extract.

Nereus’ proteasome inhibitor NPI-0052 is in Phase I trials for solid tumors, lymphomas and multiple myeloma. Preclinical studies indicate that this next generation compound may be superior to Velcade(R), with broader target inhibition, faster onset of action, higher potency, oral and intravenous availability, and activity against myeloma cells resistant to Velcade(R) (bortezomib, Millennium), Thalomid(R) (thalidomide, Celgene Corporation), Revlimid(R) (lenalidomide, Celgene Corporation) and steroid therapy. NPI-0052 was derived from a marine-obligate gram-positive actinomycete (Salinispora tropica).

kfx-logo-sm.jpgRotator-cuff specialist KFx Medical raises $10M — San Diego’s KFx Medical, a Carlsbad, Calif., developer of minimally invasive repair systems for rotator-cuff injuries, raised $10 million in a second funding round. Investors included Alloy Ventures, Charter Life Sciences, Arboretum Ventures, Montreux Equity Partners, and MB Venture Partners.

It’s pretty difficult for a non-surgeon to figure out exactly how KFx’s system works better than current medical practice, but if you’re interested in a look, check it out here.

neuromed-logo.jpgNeuroMed Pharma drops Merck work on pain drug, raises $36M — Vancouver-based NeuroMed Pharmaceuticals, a biotech focused on new pain meds, discontinued Merck-funded work on an experimental pain drug called MK-6721. The Merck collaboration, valued at as much as $475 million, will continue.

Separately, NeuroMed has raised $36 million toward a fifth funding round, VentureWire reports (subscription required). That round isn’t yet complete, and the investors haven’t been disclosed. The funding is designed to pay for completing late-stage human trials of a separate pain drug the company recently licensed from a J&J subsidiary.

adnexus-logo.jpgAdnexus raises $15.5M against cancer — Adnexus Therapeutics, a Waltham, Mass., biotech developing a new class of drugs against cancer and other diseases, raised $15.5 million in a third funding round. Investors included HBM BioVentures (Cayman), Atlas Venture, Flagship Ventures, Polaris Venture Partners and Venrock. The company intends to use the proceeds to further clinical development of its lead candidate, Angiocept, which is currently in early-stage trials in cancer.

masimologo.jpgMasimo IPO raises $233 million, jumps 23% on first day — Irvine, Calif.-based Masimo, a major developer of non-invasive patient monitors, priced its IPO in the middle of its predicted range of $16 to $18 per share, raising as much as $232.9 million — just shy of the quarter-million-dollar mark we discussed here. Since the offering involved a hefty chunk of shares sold by existing shareholders, however, the company can only pocket up to $55.9 million of the proceeds. Investors received the offering warmly, pushing the stock up to $20.90 yesterday, a rise of 23 percent.

biofisica-logo.jpgBiofisica raises $2M in venture debt for wound healing — Atlanta’s Biofisica, a medical-device maker focused on wound healing, raised $2 million in debt financing from Leader Ventures. The company makes an electrical-stimulation device designed to speed the healing of wounds, and currently sells it in the United Kingdom.

aegera-logo.jpgAegera acquires LymphoSign, uniting two Canadian oncology biotechs — Aegera Therapeutics, a Montreal biotech focused on cancer, acquired Toronto’s LymphoSign, another cancer-specialized biotech, for undisclosed terms. Several shareholders also made additional investments in Aegera’s previously announced third funding round.

infuscience-logo.jpgInfuScience acquires Palmetto Infusion Services — InfuScience, a Chicago provider of drug-infusion therapy, acquired Palmetto Infusion Services of Beaufort, S.C., for an undisclosed sum.

UPDATE (6:40pm PT): Added KFx Medical item.

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