Life sciences briefing: Friday, Aug. 24, 2007

(UPDATED at 11am PT on Sunday, 8/26/07: See below.)

Featured companies: Clinical Data, Epidauros Biotechnologie, Precision Therapeutics, UMD, Zars Pharma

UMD to close $8M for menstrual pain and osteoporosis — Cincinnati’s UMD, a developer of vaginal drug-delivery technologies, expects to close up to $8 million in a fifth funding round, VentureWire reports (subscription required). The company has backing from an undisclosed new investor, and expects former investors Charter Life Sciences and Asset Management to join the round.

UMD is developing a new version of an off-patent anti-inflammatory drug called ketorolac that can be administered on the end of a tampon for menstrual pain, and hopes to begin mid-stage human tests this year. It plans a similar delivery formulation for the active ingredient in Merck’s osteoporosis drug Fosamax, which loses patent protection this year. The company doesn’t have a Web site.Precision Therapeutics aims to raise $81M in IPO for personalized cancer tests — Pittsburgh’s Precision Therapeutics, a developer of diagnostic tests that aim to predict patient response to chemotherapy, filed to raise $80.5 million in an initial offering. The company’s tests use biopsied tumor cells to assess the likelihood that a given drug or drug combination will be effective.

This is a fairly low-tech sort of diagnostic — as its filing makes clear, Precision basically just removes tumor cells and then starts hitting them with various drugs in the laboratory to see whether they live or die. The company has only been marketing its current test, which it calls ChemoFx, for the last year or so; although it has had ChemoFx on the market since 1997, it ceased sales activity in 2003 and didn’t resume it until last year. Revenues have been predictably anemic, as until recently Precision didn’t have an active sales force, and last year the company managed the feat of posting a gross loss, in which its cost of sales in terms of lab expenses exceeded incoming revenue.

There’s other bad news, too. Precision notes that two respected organizations — the technology-evaluation center of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and a working group of the American Society of Clinical Oncology — concluded in 2004 that “chemosensitivity/chemoresistance assays” such as ChemoFx lacked supporting data that would justify their routine use.

The company also parses several complex reimbursement decisions in a fairly convincing illustration of the risk that relatively few insurers may actually want to pay for its test. It further notes that clinical data supporting use of its test is “limited,” and although it cites the results of three studies carried out between 2002 and 2006, none of them look particularly convincing. In one of the few bright spots in its filing, Precision says it is currently conducting five additional studies, some of which appear to be fairly rigorous “prospective” studies of the diagnostic.

zars-pharma-logo.jpgZars Pharma sets IPO price target — Zars Pharma, a Salt Lake City specialty pharmaceutical company that reformulates pain drugs for delivery via skin patches, set a price range for its IPO and now seeks to raise as much as $92 million in the offering. (See our previous coverage here; the company has apparently changed its name to “Zars Pharma” from “Zars.”) The company plans to offer up to 5.75 million shares at a price of $14 to $16 apiece.

clinicaldata-logo.jpgClinical Data acquires Epidauros Biotechnologie for $11.8M — Clinical Data, a publicly traded diagnostics and personalized-medicine company in Newton, Mass., agreed to pay $11.84 million (€8.75 million) to acquire Epidauros Biotechnologie of Germany. Founded in 1997, Epidauros studies genetic factors that may determine how individuals respond to drugs.

UPDATE (11am PT on Sunday, 8/26/07): Added Clinical Data/Epidauros item.

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