Life sciences briefing: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

Gelesis draws in $16M for obesity treatments — Gelesis, a stealthy Boston company working on “novel” obesity treatments, raised $16 million in a first funding round. Investors included Orbimed Advisors and existing investors.

According to this Boston Globe story, Gelesis is developing a capsule containing an undefined “substance” that would expand in the stomach once swallowed, creating a temporary sense of fullness. The substance, whatever it is, would later pass out of the body.

tempo-pharma-logo-150px.jpgTempo Pharma raises $8B for nanoparticle drugs — Cambridge, Mass.-based Tempo Pharmaceuticals, a biotech developing “nanoparticle” formulations for new and existing drugs, raised $8 million in a second funding round. Investors included Polaris Venture Partners, Venrock, Lux Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Alexandria Real Estate Equities and William Rastetter, the former chairman of Biogen Idec.

The funding is Tempo’s second in just seven months; last May, it raised $12.1 million in a first round. (See our coverage here.) Tempo says the round reflects a “significantly increased valuation.”

Like other nanoparticle-drug companies, Tempo aims to improve the safety and efficacy of existing drugs — here by packaging them together in tiny capsules that release two drugs sequentially, presumably maximizing their effectiveness while minimizing side effects. Other nanoparticle-based companies we’ve covered recently include Carigent Therapeutics (here) and Bind Biosciences (here).

calistoga-pharma-logo-150px.jpgCalistoga Pharma receives additional $5M for cancer and inflammation drugs — Seattle’s Calistoga Pharmaceuticals, a biotech focused on new cancer and inflammation drugs, raised an additional $5.2 million in its first funding round. That brings the total round to $26.2 million.

Current investors provided the new funds. Previous investors in the round included Frazier Healthcare Ventures, Alta Partners, Three Arch Partners, Amgen Ventures and Eli Lilly, according to this Fierce Biotech story.

Calistoga, which was spun out of Icos after its acquisition by Lilly, is developing drugs against a class of biochemical-signaling molecules known as phosphoinositide-3 kinase. It currently has two drug candidates in preclinical studies.

Montreux Equity Partners closes $250M life-sciences fund — The Menlo Park, Calif.-based VC firm Montreux Equity Partners closed a $250 million life-sciences fund. The firm said the fund exceeded a $200 million target.

Montreux said the fund has already invested in several pharmaceutical and medical-device startups, including Glaukos, Avantis Medical, Tobira Therapeutics and Sequel Pharmaceuticals. We previously noted their fundraising efforts here.

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