Life sciences briefing: Monday, Aug. 20, 2007

(UPDATED at 7:10pm PT: See below.)

Featured companies: NeurAxon, VytronUS, Avila Therapeutics, CardioNet, Ventana Medical Systems, CytoLogix, PlaCor

neuraxon-logo.jpgNeurAxon raises $32M for pain drugs — You have to hand it to Waltham, Mass.-based NeurAxon — the company certainly knows how to keep itself in the news. Today, it announced it has raised $32 million in a second funding round, a week after it reported a positive early-stage trial result for its experimental migraine treatment.

Investors included Delphi Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors, BDC Venture Capital, Genesys Capital Partners, H.I.G. Ventures, NeuroVentures Fund, Ventures West Capital and Lawrence Bloch, NeurAxon’s CEO.

Stealthy VytronUS gets $6.6M — Los Altos, Calif.-based VytronUS, a secretive medical-device company, raised $6.6 million in a first funding round, PE Hub reports, citing a regulatory filing. Delphi Ventures and New Enterprise Associates provided the funds.

Avila Therapeutics receives undisclosed first funding — Avila Therapeutics, a Waltham, Mass., biotech focused on cancer and viral disease, raised an undisclosed first funding round in February, VentureWire reports (subscription required). Investors included Abingworth Management, Advent Venture Partners, Atlas Venture and Polaris Venture Partners. The company doesn’t have a Web site.

cardionet-logo.jpgWireless heart monitor CardioNet files to raise $150M in an IPO — CardioNet, a San Diego medical-device firm focused on wireless heartbeat monitors, filed to raise up to $150 million in an IPO. The company still isn’t profitable, although its sales appear to be set to double this year.

The In Vivo blog has some additional insight into CardioNet’s rather convoluted funding history.

ventana-logo.jpgDefunct device maker wins patent case against Ventana — CytoLogix, a failed medical-device startup formerly based in Cambridge, Mass., won a patent-infringement suit against publicly traded Ventana Medical Systems of Tuscon, Ariz. A jury awarded CytoLogix $10.8 million in damages, but said Ventana wasn’t liable for related antitrust claims. CytoLogix attorneys have said they will seek to have the damages paid to the company’s shareholders, VentureWire reports.

From VentureWire:

CytoLogix alleged in the patent litigation that Ventana learned about CytoLogix’s proprietary intellectual property by gaining access to a confidential business plan that CytoLogix had distributed in the mid-1990s as part of its search for venture capital. This allegation stemmed from an admission made by Ventana’s then-Chairman Jack Schuler, as part of an address he made in October 1999, at a U.S. Trust investment conference in Tarrytown, N.Y.

In the speech, Schuler described in detail how years before, Ventana had made use of information in the business plan. A 2002 Barron’s article about the litigation quotes him in the speech as having acknowledged the competition in a major way.

CytoLogix sold its business operations to Dako in 2002, and currently exists only to pursue the litigation. Ventana, meanwhile, is trying to fend off an unsolicited takeover offer from Roche.

The original Barron’s article on the lawsuit is here, and there’s a little more detail on the decision in this AP story.

placor-logo.jpgPlaCor names new CEO — PlaCor, a Plymouth, Minn., developer of blood-cell diagnostics, named John Reinke as CEO, effective Sept. 4. PlaCor is developing diagnostic tests of platelet reactivity intended to determine patient response to anticoagulant treatment following serious blood-clot incidents, which can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Current CEO Bill Haworth will become the company’s chief scientific officer.

UPDATE (7:10pm PT): Added items on Ventana/CytoLogix lawsuit and PlaCor.