Life sciences briefing: Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007

Featured companies: Cyntellect, Lectus Therapeutics, NeoMatrix, Nexstim, Pearl Therapeutics, Proteon Therapeutics, SupplyScape

(UPDATED at 10am PT: See below.)

Airway-disease specialist Pearl Therapeutics raises $15.5M — Redwood City, Calif.-based Pearl Therapeutics, a drug-formulation company focused on respiratory disease, raised $15.5 million in a first funding round. Investors included New Leaf Ventures, Clarus Ventures and 5AM Ventures.

Pearl doesn’t appear to have a working Web site yet, but according to its release, the company aims to treat unspecified airway diseases using “particle technologies” it has licensed from Nektar Therapeutics. Nektar, of course, is the company that spent years co-developing the inhalable insulin Exubera with Pfizer, only to see it flop in the marketplace — not least because the bulky inhaler resembled nothing so much as a bong.

In fact, Pearl’s ties to Nektar run deep. In addition to licensing its basic technology from Nektar, the company was founded in 2006 by two former Nektar executives, Adrian Smith and Sarvajna Dwivedi. Pearl most likely also aims to reformulate existing drugs into a better inhalable form — and presumably hopes for better luck in doing so.Proteon Therapeutics sucks in $12M for vascular drug — Proteon, a Waltham, Mass., biotech, raised $12 million in a follow-on to its first funding round. Investors included TVM Capital, Skyline Ventures, Prism VentureWorks and Intersouth Partners.

Proteon’s main drug candidate, PRT-201, aims to do something new by permanently enlarging blood vessels at the site of administration. The technology is based on elastases, a type of protein-cutting enzyme, which supposedly modify the “extracellular matrix” of blood vessels in order to enlarge them. The company expects the drug might be useful for kidney-dialysis patients, who now often have to undergo surgery to create blood vessels large enough for a connection to the blood-filtration devices, and in peripheral arterial disease.

nexstim-logo.jpgBrain scanner Nexstim beams in €8M — Nexstim , a Helsinki, Finland-based developer of brain-imaging techniques, raised €8 million ($10.9 million) in a private placement. Investors included HealthCap, LSP (Life Sciences Partners), Finnish Industry Investment and Sitra.

Nexstim is working on a new brain-imaging technique it calls “navigated brain stimulation.” The details are pretty hairy — check out the company’s release if you’d like to know more — but it essentially combines several different electromagnetic-imaging techniques with a movable coil that can be guided wherever the operator would like. The system isn’t approved for clinical use, although Nexstim said the funding would allow it to obtain the necessary regulatory approval.

supplyscape-logo.jpgHealth software company SupplyScape raises $10M, names new CEO — SupplyScape, a Woburn, Mass., developer of supply-chain software for life-sciences companies, raised $10 million in a third funding round. Investors in the latest round included IDG Ventures Boston, North Bridge Venture Partners, Pilot House Ventures, Bethesda Partners, and Pfizer Strategic Investments Group.

The company also named Mark O’Connell, former CEO of MatrixOne, as its chief executive.

The average person, however, could be forgiven for having no clue what SupplyScape actually does. According to the company’s press releases, it makes software to “maximize product integrity and create business value for pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device companies.” Its Web site promises “collaborative pharmaceutical value chains” that improve “security and profitability.” As it turns out, the company’s software helps track and trace drugs from their point of manufacture through various distribution channels in order to guard against counterfeits, at least so far as I can tell from its Web site.

neomatrix-logo.jpgCancer screener NeoMatrix raises $9.6M — San Diego’s NeoMatrix, a company focused on early detection of breast cancer, raised $9.6 million in a third funding round. Private investors provided the funding, the company told me. (Its release doesn’t include these details.) Out of sheer coincidence, two southern California businessmen — Anthony Ciabattoni and Richard Franco Sr. — also just joined the company’s board (see the release for details).

Founded in 2000, NeoMatrix sells a screening test that detects pre-malignant or malignant cells in “nipple aspirate fluid,” which is extracted from the breast using a “gentle” suction device. The company said the new funds will allow it to hire its first sales reps, expand its marketing efforts and to convert or retire remaining debt the company used to finance development of its test.

lectus-logo.jpgLectus draws in £3M for MS drugs — Cambridge, England-based Lectus Therapeutics, a biotech focused on a class of drugs known as ion-channel modulators, raised £3 million ($6.1 million) in funding from the Wellcome Trust. The investment is intended specifically to fund development of drugs for multiple sclerosis. Lectus had previously identified its primary disease interests as urinary bladder disorders, pain and angina.

cyntellect-logo.jpgCell imager Cyntellect adds $3M in funding — Cytellect, a San Diego developer of cell imaging and manipulation systems, raised an additional $3 million in a fourth funding round, bringing the total for the round to $18.1 million. Bru II Venture Capital Fund, based in Reykjavik, Iceland, provided the additional funding.

Cyntellect’s laser-based equipment makes it possible to fluorescently image cells, isolate and destroy unwanted cells in a sample, and to “optoinject” various molecules directly into cells. See our previous coverage here.

UPDATE (10am PT): Added items on Cyntellect, Lectus Therapeutics, NeoMatrix, Nexstim, Pearl Therapeutics, and Proteon Therapeutics.