Life sciences briefing: Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2007

Featured companies: Tenaxis Medical, Aspen MedTech, Biolex Therapeutics

Tenaxis closes up $5M for surgical sealants — Mountain View, Calif.-based Tenaxis Medical, a developer of glues and sealants for closing surgical incisions, raised $5 million in a second funding round, VentureWire reports (subscription required). Individual investors, including several limited partners in Magic Venture Capital, provided the funding.

Tenaxis began clinical trials of its first experimental product, a sealant for blood vessels, last month. The company plans to use the proceeds from the current funding to begin trials in Europe.

Aspen MedTech, a medical-device “incubator,” raises $1M — Three Arch Partners and Prospect Venture Partners co-led a $1 million funding round for Aspen MedTech, a Bellevue, Wash., shell company designed to incubate an as-yet undetermined medical-device startup, VentureWire reports. The one-shot incubator will be subsumed into the company it eventually gestates, unlike typical “evergreen” incubators designed to create several companies.

From the VentureWire story:

Aspen will consider technologies in a variety of large markets, including cardiovascular disease, orthopedics and women’s health. Aesthetics, a hot market, is also a possibility, though [Aspen general manager Daniel] Hawkins said the bar is high because competition there is already intense.

biolex-logo.jpgBiolex files for $70M IPO — Biolex Therapeutics, a Pittsboro, N.C. biotech focused on manufacturing complex proteins and optimized monoclonal antibodies in an aquatic-plant system, filed to raise up to $70 million in an IPO.

Biolex has three drug candidates, two of which appear to be new forms of existing biotech drugs — a time-release form of interferon alfa for treating hepatitis C and an antibody drug for use against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Biolex has also developed a new clot-busting drug based on genetically engineered plasmin, a natural substance in the body that dissolves fibrin, a protein that holds clots together. Only the interferon has entered clinical trials.

Like most biotechs, Biolex has accumulated a large aggregate net loss, here amounting to $88.6 million as of March 31. Its annual burn rate — which I generally equate to operating losses — has risen steadily to $18.5 million in 2006 from $10.3 million in 2004.

Biolex acknowledges something in its risk-factor disclosure that I had been wondering about. The company states that “No product manufactured using a plant-based production system, including our LEX System, has received regulatory approval,” which is kind of interesting. There are a number of efforts afoot to produce protein-based biotech drugs in new types of genetically engineered cells, including yeast. Traditionally, such cells would produce proteins that lacked essential human features, such as particular arrangements of sugar molecules, which rendered them unsuitable as medicines.