Life sciences briefing: Friday, Sept. 14, 2007

Featured companies: Accenx, Chlorogen, Third Rock Ventures

third-rock-logo.jpgEx-Millennium execs found new life-sciences venture fund, raise $378M — Several former executives of Millennium Pharmaceuticals have founded a new Boston-based venture firm called Third Rock Ventures and raised $378 million for early-stage investments.

The Millennium connection runs so deep you’d be forgiven for thinking the company had simply spun out a venture-capital arm. Third Rock’s partners include Millennium founder and former CEO Mark Levin; former Millennium CFO Kevin Starr; former Millennium R&D chief Robert Tepper; Nick Leschly, a former project leader for Millennium’s cancer drug Velcade; and Lou Tartaglia, Millennium’s former vice president of new ventures. The only non-Millennium alum listed among the partners is Anne-Mari Paster, former CFO of MPM Capital.

Of course, most of these ex-Millenniarians have gone on to other ventures in the meantime, but it’s still unusual to see folks putting the band back together this way. No word yet as to whether they’re on a mission from God; all Third Rock is saying is that it intends to fund biotech drugs and medical devices with “the potential for broad applications, market leadership and extraordinary value creation.” In other words, pretty much the same strategy as every other venture-capital firm ever created. (To be fair, Third Rock says it hopes to focus on companies with platform technologies capable of creating drugs or devices in a variety of medical conditions.)

Forbes’ Matthew Herper has more here.

accenx-logo.jpgAccenx Tech pulls in $3M for healthcare IT — Irvine, Calif.-based Accenx Technologies, a provider of healthcare “interoperability” software, raised $3 million in a first funding round, VentureWire reports (subscription required). National Healthcare Services, the investment arm of the nonprofit MemorialCare Medical Centers in southern California.

Accenx makes software, sold as a service, that connects electronic medical records in doctors’ offices to hospital information systems. The company was founded in 1997 and told VentureWire that it has previously funded itself through its “organic growth.” The funding will allow the company to ramp up sales and improve the quality of its software services and may carry it through to breakeven.

Chlorogen shuts down, sells off assets — St. Louis-based Chlorogen, once a promising plant-science based startup, is closing down and selling off its assets. The company modified tobacco plants to produce proteins that might be used as drugs, and raised a total of $11 million in venture capital. Its technology, however, remained at an early stage, apparently leading its backers to decide to shutter it and sell off its work to larger companies such as Dow Agrosciences rather than putting in the time and financial resources necessary to develop it further.

Venrock names new life-science members — The Menlo Park, Calif., venture-capital firm Venrock hired Steve Goldby and Ken Song as partner and vice president, respectively, to oversee energy and healthcare investments. Goldby has spent 30 years in the life-science, material and software industries, including nine years as CEO of Venrock-backed Symyx Technologies. Song has spent 10 years in biomedical research at MIT’s Whitehead Institute, UCSF and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.