Life sciences briefing: Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007

Featured companies: AstraZeneca, Atlantis Components, Cara Therapeutics, CardioMems, Corium International, New Ortho Polymers, Osprey Pharmaceuticals, Othera Pharmaceuticals, StrataGent Life Sciences

Corium acquires Stratagent, raises $25.1M for “transdermal” drugs — Corium International, a Menlo Park, Calif., biotech focused on drugs that can be delivered through the skin, said it will acquire StrataGent Life Sciences of San Jose, Calif., for an undisclosed sum. At the same time, Corium raised $25.1 million in a third funding round, and said it has commitments for another $15.2 million within the next 24 months.

StrataGent, whose origins lie in work performed at Stanford, has focused on “needle-free” drug delivery using a microjet system in a microprocessor-controlled device resembling an electronic patch. (See our previous coverage here.) The company raised a $16 million round in May, although the company never received more than $6.7 million of that. Corium has a much broader focus that incorporates a variety of technologies for delivering drugs via the skin or mucosal surfaces such as the nasal passages or mouth.

Although ostensibly a straightforward merger, StrataGent CEO Robert Thomas will run the merged company, while Ron Eastman of Essex Woodlands Health Ventures — a previous StrataGent investor — will assume the job of chairman. StrataGent will relocate to Corium’s Menlo Park address. Investors in the latest round include Essex, Quantum Technology Partners, Aphelion Capital and an unnamed “strategic investor.”CardioMems raises $23.3M for implantable heart sensors — Atlanta’s CardioMems, a medical-device company at work on a new generation of implantable heart sensors, raised $23.3 million in a still-open fifth funding round, VentureWire reports (subscription required). Investors in the round included “most” of the participants in the company’s previous round, a group that includes Arcapita Ventures, Easton Capital Partners, Boston Millennia Partners, Foundation Medical Partners, Medtronic Inc. and Johnson & Johnson Development Corp.

CardioMems is still looking for new investors. Its first product is a wireless sensor that can measure the pressure inside an aneurysm — a weakened section of an arterial wall that’s susceptible to rupture — during surgery intended to repair it.

othera-pharma-logo.jpgOthera Pharma arranges $7M debt facility for an eye treatment — Exton, Pa.-based Othera Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharmaceutical company at work on a new treatments for glaucoma and macular degeneration, arranged a $7 million debt facility with Oxford Financial, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sumitomo. The funding will help Othera advance its lead drug candidate in exsting mid-stage clinical trials.

cara-tx-logo.jpgCara Thera receives $4M, moves to Connecticut from New York — Cara Therapeutics, a biotech formerly based in Tarrytown, N.Y., has received $4 million in facilities funding from Connecticut Innovations to help fund its move to Shelton, Conn. Cara, which is developing new pain and inflammation treatments, plans to use the money to build laboratory space in its new headquarters.

Connecticut Innovations is a quasi-public economic development agency. In a separate investment, the agency provided $250,000 in seed funding to New Ortho Polymers, a maker of orthodontic appliances.

EffRx raises convertible debt for osteoporosis — EffRx, a Tequesta, Fla., company that repackages old drugs in new formulations, raised an undisclosed some from a convertible debt offering, VentureWire reports. The funding will allow the company to push an “effervescent” version — think of Alka-Seltzer — of the osteoporosis drug Fosamax to the market. The investors weren’t disclosed.

Osprey Pharmaceuticals names new CEO — Osprey Pharmaceuticals, a Montreal biotech that’s consolidating its headquarters operations in San Francisco, named Jack Anthony as CEO. Anthony, currently an Osprey vice president, will remain in San Francisco. Osprey is developing new drugs for kidney disease.

AstraZeneca unit buys dental-implant maker for $71M — AstraZeneca’s medical-technology subsidiary, Astra Tech, agreed to acquire Cambridge, Mass.-based Atlantis Components for $71 million. Atlantis makes customized “abutments,” which are tiny components designed to stabilize dental implants. The company had previously raised about $26.3 million in four funding rounds, VentureWire reports.