Life sciences briefing: Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007

Featured companies: Allergan, Athenahealth, Atria Genetics, Celera, Esprit Pharmaceuticals, Vida Diagnostics

(NOTE: This item was posted on Friday, 9/21/07. I’ve backdated its timestamp to preserve the chronological order of the briefings.)Celera buys Atria Genetics for $33M — Rockville, Md.-based Celera, the onetime genomics pioneer still working to turn itself into a diagnostics company, agreed to pay $33 million to acquire Atria Genetics of South San Francisco, Calif. (Atria doesn’t seem to have a Web site, and if they’ve taken venture funding, I haven’t seen any signs of it.) Atria makes immune-system tests — formally called human-leukocyte antigen (HLA) tests — designed to ensure matches between bone-marrow or organ donors and recipients.

Celera is certainly starting to throw cash around, as this deal is its second acquisition in the past few weeks. Earlier this month, the company bought Berkeley HeartLab, a Burlingame, Calif., maker of cardiovascular diagnostics, for $195 million. Our coverage is in the first item here.

allergan-logo.jpgAllergan buys bladder-drug maker Esprit for $370M — Publicly traded Allergan agreed to pay $370 million for Esprit Pharma, an East Brunswick, N.J., specialty pharmaceutical company. Esprit makes Sanctura, a drug for treating overactive bladder — yes, it’s probably as unpleasant as it sounds — that Allergan believes could generate sales of up to $400 million a year. Allergan is also testing its face-paralyzing anti-wrinkle drug Botox against overactive bladder.

Reuters (via the NYT) has more.

athenahealth-logo.gifAthenahealth prices IPO, soars on first trading day — Athenahealth, a provider of software and services for physicians’ offices, priced its IPO above its expected range and then saw its shares soar during its first day of trading. The Watertown, Mass., company priced its shares at $18 apiece, well above the $14 to $16 range it had previously established. Enthusiastic traders pushed the shares up to $38.69 before closing at $35.50. Athenahealth raised as much as $130 million and now has a market capitalization of $1.1 billion.

UPDATE: Matt Marshall points out at VentureBeat that the company’s underwriters effectively took it to the cleaners by leaving so much money on the table. I’m sympathetic to that point of view and think that auction-based IPOs are much more efficient traditional “indication of interest” IPOs, although it’s also the case that this kind of big bounce can also spark investor enthusiasm for future offerings. I’ve noted before, for instance, that biotech investors would probably welcome some similar excitement amid their recent humdrum IPOs.

vida-logo.jpgVida raises $811K for lung-imaging system — Vida Diagnostics, an Iowa City, Iowa, developer of diagostic imaging systems for treating emphysema, raised $811,000 in a first funding round to push its first product past approval, VentureWire reports (subscription required). Corridor Management of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, led the round.