Life sciences briefing: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007

Featured companies: AxoGen, Cognition Therapeutics, Ester Neurosciences, Gene Security Network, HealthTalk, MPM Capital, Revolution Health, SparkPeople

UPDATING: Expanded items on AxoGen, Ester and Cognition. Posted full items on MPM (link) and Gene Security Network (link).AxoGen raises $12M for nerve regeneration — AxoGen, an Alachua, Fla., biotech focused on developing grafts for damaged “peripheral” nerves, raised $12.1 million in a third funding round. Investors included Accuitive Medical Ventures, Cardinal Partners, De Novo Ventures and Springboard Capital II.

AxoGen develops tissue grafts designed to preserve or restore the function of damaged nerves in the body’s periphery — areas such as the limbs, face or genitals. The company’s technology aims to “cleanse” nerve-graft tissue of substances that might inhibit nerve growth and regeneration — particularly one known as chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan — while preserving other factors that promote regrowth and integration of the grafted nerve.

The company launched its first peripheral-nerve graft product in July. AxoGen says the new funding will allow it to promote the product more vigorously.

ester-neuro-logo.jpgEster Neurosciences acquired by Amarin for $15M — Israel’s Ester Neurosciences, a biotech developing treatments for neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, sold itself to Amarin of the U.K. for an upfront payment of $15 million plus up to $17 million in contingency payments. The release is here.

Ester’s lead program consists of a gene-silencing “antisense” drug for the neurodegenerative condition myasthenia gravis, which is now in a mid-stage test involving 18 patients. The company is also working with Pharmacopeia of the U.S. to develop small-molecule drugs that target variants of the AChE neurotransmitter that appear to be related to behavioral abnormalities or cognitive and motor degeneration.

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