Life sciences briefing: Friday, Aug. 31, 2007

Featured companies: Aryx Therapeutics, FlowCardia, GraftcathFlowCardia raises $30M for artery roto-rooters — Sunnyvale, Calif.-based FlowCardia, a medical-device maker building catheter systems that bore holes in blood clots, raised $30 million in a third funding round. Investors included Gilde Healthcare Partners, Life Sciences Partners, Hambrecht & Quist Capital Management, New Science Ventures, Frazier Healthcare Ventures, JP Morgan Partners, Pappas Ventures, Rockport Venture Partners and Gold Hill Capital. The funding is intended to speed commercialization of the company’s “recanalization” device, which essentially busts through clots that totally block arteries.

aryx-logo.jpgAryx aims to raise $86M in IPO for rejiggered drugs — Aryx Therapeutics, a Fremont, Calif., biotech company that derives ostensibly safer versions of existing drugs, filed to raise up to $85.3 million in an initial offering. The company uses a technology that reengineers these current drugs so they aren’t broken down by the same metabolic pathway in the liver, which is subject to “traffic jams” that can boost drug levels in the blood and lead to side effects.

Aryx’s first candidate is a reengineered form of cisapride, an acid-reflux (read: heartburn) drug better known by the brand name Propulsid, which was withdrawn from the U.S. market after it was linked to heartbeat irregularities. Aryx is also at work on a redone version of warfarin, a blood thinner usually administered to people at risk of blood clots. (See our recent coverage of FDA’s decision to include pharmacogenomic information on the warfarin label that might alleviate side effects here.)

graftcath-logo.gifGraftCath aims for $10M to develop better dialysis catheter — Eden Prairie, Minn.-based GraftCath, a medical-device company working on alternative to central venous catheters for kidney-dialysis patients, aims to raise $10 million in a fourth financing round by October, VentureWire reports (subscription required). The news service didn’t name any investors in the round.

From VentureWire:

To initiate dialysis, doctors must create an entranceway into the bloodstream. This can be done by joining an artery to a vein to create a fistula, or by using a graft to connect the artery and vein. Both methods provide adequate blood flow for dialysis, but fistulas are preferred because they use a patient’s own vessels and are less susceptible to infection and to becoming narrowed or occluded.

[When] patients aren’t eligible for fistulas or grafts… [they typically receive a] central venous catheter over the long term for their access point. These catheters put patients at a higher risk for blood-borne infection than either fistulas or grafts. These blood-borne infections, or bacteremias, are dangerous to patients and costly to hospitals. According to a study published in May in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the mean cost of catheter-related bacteremia is estimated to be $23,451 per hospitalization.

GraftCath claims its device reduces the risk of bacteremia, although VentureWire’s explanation isn’t terribly clear. Supposedly the device is safer because it’s implanted under the skin, although it clearly has to exit somewhere, since otherwise there’s no way to hook up the patient to a dialysis machine, which clears the blood of toxins in people whose kidneys are failing. The company doesn’t have a Web site that might explicate things, either.