Life sciences briefing: Monday, Aug. 13, 2007

(UPDATED: See below.)

Featured companies: FoldRx Pharmaceuticals, Ophthotech, Pevion Biotech, Restoration Robotics, Glide Pharma, Reliant Pharmaceuticals, Nanosphere, SurModics, BioFX LaboratoriesFoldRx Pharma to receive $22M against cystic fibrosis — Cambridge, Mass.-based FoldRx Pharmaceuticals, a biotech focused on diseases that result from misfolded proteins, will get $22 million over the next five years from an affiliate of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to further its work against the genetic lung disease. The money will be paid as FoldRx meets various developmental milestones, including pushing two experimental drugs into early-stage human trials. The company’s current drug candidates, however, don’t target cystic fibrosis, and instead aim to take on a particular class of diseases known as amyloidosis and Parkinson’s disease.

The Boston Globe and the WSJ Health Blog have more.

Newly formed Ophthotech raises $36M against eye disease — Ophthotech, a newly formed Princeton, N.J., biotech with a focus on eye disease, raised a whopping $36 million in a first funding round. The company, founded by a bevy of former Eyetech Pharmaceuticals officials, is going to follow directly in the former company’s footsteps by taking aim at age-related macular degeneration with aptamers licensed from Archemix (which we wrote about here).

Investors in the round included SV Life Sciences, HBM BioVentures and Novo A/S. (See update below.)

pevion-logo.jpgPevion Biotech gets $29M for vaccines — Pevion Biotech, a Bern, Switzerland-based vaccine developer, raised $29 million (CHF35 million) in a first funding round. Investors included BZ Bank Aktiengesellschaft, BB Biotech Ventures II, CC Private Equity Partners and Bachem Holding. The company is conducting clinical trials of vaccines against malaria, breast cancer and hepatitis C.

Hair-transplant automator Restoration Robotics raises $25M — Restoration Robotics, a Mountain View, Calif., developer of robotic surgery systems for hair transplants, raised $25 million in a second round of funding, PE Hub reports. The company’s Web site is a stub and the linked article doesn’t contain much information, but an April VentureWire store republished at Alta Partners’ site gets to the root of the matter:

Sutter Hill Ventures and Alloy Ventures, for example, have invested in the first and second rounds raised in 2005 and 2006, respectively, by Restoration Robotics Inc., which is testing a robotic device that performs hair transplants. Transplant-surgery outcomes vary according to the surgeon’s skill. Restoration’s robot — which is surgeon-controlled — produces uniform results in half the time, says CEO Jim McCollum. Investors hope this pushes hair transplants into the mainstream. Today, “people think of late-night commercials when they think of hair restoration,” says Sutter Hill Managing Director Jeffrey W. Bird.

Investors in the round include InterWest Partners, Alloy Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures.

glide-pharma-logo.jpgGlide Pharma raises $4.6M for needle-free drugs — U.K. specialty pharma Glide Pharma raised $4.6 million (£2.3 million). Investors included Oxford Technology 4 VCT and Oxford Capital Partners. The company is developing drugs that can be delivered via its own needle-free injection system. We’ve written about other startups pursuing similar technology, including StrataGent Life Sciences and Macroflux.

reliant-pharma-logo.gifReliant Pharma refiles for a $400M IPO — Reliant Pharmaceuticals, a Liberty Corner, N.J., specialty pharma that withdrew a planned $300 million IPO in 2005, is going to try again, only with more at stake. The company filed to raise as much as $400 million in an offering, despite the fact that it is on track to lose more than $100 million this year, which would be the third time in four years it has done so.

In the first six months of this year, Reliant reported a net loss to common shareholders of $56.4 million on revenue of $230 million. That net loss would have been only $21.8 million but for preferred-share dividends of $34.6 million in the half. Reliant sells a variety of unrelated second-hand drugs for cardiovascular problems.

Interestingly enough, Reliant made its last charge at the public markets with the famed Ernest Mario at the helm. Mario jumped from Reliant just last week, and is now CEO of the little-known Capnia (see our coverage here).

nanosphere-logo.jpgNanosphere aims for outsized $100M IPO — Nanosphere, a Northbrook, Ill., developer of nucleic-acid and protein detection and diagnostic systems, filed to raise as much as $100 million in an IPO. As of March 31, the company had an accumulated deficit of $112.6 million. Earlier this year, it submitted its Verigene molecular-diagnostic system to the FDA for approval; Nanosphere intends to market the device to hospital laboratories that currently aren’t equipped to perform such tests in-house.

surmodics-logo.jpgSurModics snaps up diagnostic-supply company BioFX for up to $22.7M — SurModics, an Eden Prairie, Minn., developer of drug formulations and other biological supplies, agreed to acquire BioFX Laboratories of Owings Mills, Md., for $11.3 million in cash and milestone payments worth up to $11.4 million. The release is here. The acquisition is the second for SurModics this month; it bought out Brookwood Laboraties on Aug. 2 (our coverage is here).

UPDATE (2:37pm PT): Added items on Glide Pharma, Reliant Pharmaceuticals, Nanosphere, and SurModics/BioFX Laboratories.

UPDATE REDUX: Over at Pharma’s Cutting Edge, Fred Cohen notes what I didn’t have time to, which is that Ophthotech essentially amounts to a do-over for the architects of Eyetech’s failure. Check it out.