Life sciences briefing: Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007

Featured companies: 23andMe, APT Pharmaceuticals, Hyperion Therapeutics, Isis Biopolymer, Virogenomics

UPDATED at 10:30am PT.

APT Pharma raises $22M for transplant and heart drugs — Burlingame, Calif.’s APT Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharma currently focused on a drug to fight organ-transplant rejection, raised $22 million in an extension of its first funding round. Investors included Versant Ventures, Great Point Partners, Vivo Ventures and Charter Life Sciences.

APT, which acquires its drug candidates instead of developing them itself, has raised a total of $30 million to date. Its lead candidate is an inhalable form of the immunosuppressive drug cyclosporine, called Pulmoniq, which is intended to prevent rejection and improve survival in lung-transplant patients.23andMe reveals size of first funding round — PE Hub reports that Google-backed 23andMe has raised $8.9 million, citing a regulatory filing. Apparently, however, this isn’t new funding. When the personal-genomics startup (see our coverage here and here) announced its funding back in May, all we knew was that Google had invested $3.9 million, with unspecified participation by Mohr-Davidow Ventures and New Enterprise Associates bringing the round to somewhere around $10 million. I’m now told that the $8.9 million figure is just the total of that first round, which also included participation of some angel investors.

hyperion-therapeutics-logo.JPGHyperion Therapeutics drums up $15M in debt — The South San Francisco specialty pharma pulled in $15 million in debt financing from Comerica Bank and Life Sciences Capital. Hyperion, which raised $40 million in equity just a month ago (see our coverage in the first item here), in-licenses drug candidates from other companies and runs them through clinical trials.

The company also announced a slate of senior executives, many of them from Ucyclyd, a Medicis Pharmaceutical unit with which Hyperion recently concluded a licensing deal. Hyperion’s lead drug candidates address a gastrointestinal disorder and liver disease.

Drug-delivery company Isis Biopolymer draws $1.5M — Isis Biopolymer, a Warwick, R.I., device maker focused on a new drug-delivery technology, raised $1.5 million in seed funding, VentureWire reports (subscription required). GP Bullhound of London provided the funding.

Isis is exploring ways of using electrophoresis, a low-level electric current that can theoretically drag large, charged drug molecules across barriers like skin, as a new way of delivering drugs without needles via a patch-type device — one the company tells VentureWire is “more of a Band-Aid than an iPod.” The company has launched a $5 million first round of fundraising, and expects to begin human trials of its patch early next year.

Virogenomics gets $2M grant for bio-sensor work — NIST awarded Tigard, Ore.-based Virogenomics a $2 million grant to develop a system that tests for a variety of biological molecules at once, the company said. A closer read of the company’s press release suggests that it is developing a kind of protein chip — essentially a way of scanning for the presence of particular proteins in a sample such as blood serum — that relies on some sort of microelectronic “transducers” to signal detection.

At least from this description, it’s not really clear why this sort of technology would warrant a NIST grant, as any number of companies are developing similar-sounding protein chips. Virogenomics is something between a biotechnology firm and an incubator; the company says it licenses promising technologies and develops them in-house until it can spin them off into new startup companies. (Virogenomics strikes me as a pretty odd name for this sort of tech-development outfit, unless it’s a failed biotech that later developed a new purpose, although that’s just a guess.)

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