Life sciences briefing: Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007

Featured companies: Aveo Pharmaceuticals, Aviir, deltaDot, Origen Therapeutics

aviir-logo.jpgHeart-diagnostic maker Aviir raises $11.3M — Palo Alto, Calif.-based Aviir, a biotech developing cardiovascular diagnostics based on Stanford research, raised $11.3 million of an expected $25 million second funding round, PE Hub reports. The news is presumably from one of those paper-based SEC filings that are supposed to be digitized before long.

Investors include Bay City Capital, Aberdare Ventures and New Leaf Ventures. Aviir hasn’t said much about its technology beyond the fact that its tests are designed to provide “accurate diagnosis and prognosis” of heart disease and that it expects to reach the market next year. That’s ridiculously fast for anything that needs to move through clinical trials, so chances are good that Aviir is aiming for some sort of “home-brew” strategy in which it will conduct the tests itself instead of selling kits and reagents to clinical laboratories around the country. Home-brew tests are regulated less strictly by the FDA.

deltadot-logo.jpgDeltaDot, biological tool maker, raises £3M — The London maker of tools for identifying and separating biomolecules drew in £3 million ($6.1 million) (PDF link) from investors in a fourth funding round, bringing the total raised in that round to £6 million. Investors included FF&P Private Equity, Imperial Innovations, NPI Ventures, Sitka Health Fund VCT and London Technology Fund.

DeltaDot, which spun out of the Imperial College of Science, Medicine and Technology, uses technologies from high-energy physics to measure the ultraviolet-light absorption of molecules and then applies signal-processing algorithms to identify them.

aveo-logo.gifAveo Pharma raises $5M in broader deal with OSI Pharma — Cambridge, Mass.-based Aveo Pharmaceuticals, a biotech developing targeted cancer drugs, raised $5 million in equity and received another $10 million in cash as part of a broader development partnership with publicly traded OSI Pharmaceuticals. The deal will also include payments for future milestones and royalties, if any, although the companies didn’t estimate their potential value.

The alliance is aimed at developing drugs that target a cellular process known as “epithelial-mesenchymal transition,” a natural stage of cellular development mimicked by tumor cells as they spread, or metastasize, throughout the body. See our previous coverage of Aveo here.

origen-logo.jpgOrigen receives $2M grant for chicken-based antibodies — Burlingame, Calif.-based Origen Therapeutics, a company focused on developing biotech products from genetically engineered chickens, received a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The funding is intended to spur development of human polyclonal antibodies — which attack a variety of different protein targets instead of a single one, the way monoclonal antibodies do — that can be produced by chickens and deposited in eggs for harvesting. The first goal of the program will be to develop therapies for antibiotic-resistant hospital infections, which represent a growing threat to patients.

From the Origen press release:

Most antibody therapeutics today, such as the cancer treatments Avastin® and Herceptin® and the anti-infective Synagis®, are monoclonal antibodies that attack a single antigen target on a cell or viral surface. In contrast, when the human immune system produces antibodies against disease, it makes polyclonal antibodies capable of recognizing and attacking different antigens on the same cell, enabling that disease target to be simultaneously attacked at many different points. Thus the ability to produce fully human polyclonal antibodies on a commercial scale for use as therapeutics could take antibody-based therapies to a new level of efficacy by more closely mimicking the full potential of the natural human immune response. Until now, the production of safe and effective polyclonal antibody treatments has been hampered by the lack of an appropriate system for the development and production of such antibodies.