Life sciences briefing: Monday, Jan. 14, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

Autonomic Technologies raises $3M for neurostimulators — Menlo Park, Calif.-based Autonomic Technologies (no Web site), a medical device company developing some sort of neurostimulator, has raised $3 million of an intended $5 million first round of funding, PE Hub reports, citing a regulatory filing. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers provided the cash, while the Cleveland Clinic is also listed as a shareholder.

The company appears to be pretty well stealthed, as so far I haven’t managed to turn up any telltale traces outside of this single report. Among other things, the Kleiner site, unsurprisingly, doesn’t even list Autonomic in its portfolio. One potential clue lies in the company’s name, as the phrase “autonomic technology” generally refers to software or a network that manages and corrects itself (IBM has been a big proponent of the idea, although it’s hard to tell from here if it’s classic IT hype or something real). So presumably the startup is pursuing neurostimulation that engages a “self-healing” response of some sort in the brain or central nervous system.

If anyone knows anything about what Autonomic is up to, feel free to give us a shout in comments or by email.Cancer-drug developer AmpliMed draws $5M — Amplimed, a Tuscon, Ariz., biotech focused on cancer drugs, has raised $5 million of a planned $22 million third funding round, PE Hub reports, citing a regulatory filing. Investors included BioMed Venture Partners, Biotech Insight Ventures, Solstice Capital and Valley Ventures.

AmpliMed is working on a new type of chemotherapy drug — technically, a cytotoxic chemotherapy that targets all rapidly dividing cells in the body — that it claims may be substantially less toxic that most such drugs. The company’s lead candidate, which it calls Amplimexon, inhibits a compound called glutathione that appears to protect cancer cells from damage by “free oxygen” radicals, or single-atom oxygen ions that typically wreak havoc within cells. AmpliMed suggests that non-cancerous cells that also divide rapidly, such as those lining the gut, appear to weather the suppression of glutathione more hardily than tumor cells, which theoretically should accumulate loads of oxygen radicals and then self-destruct.

Amplimexon is currently in mid-stage human tests against pancreatic and skin cancer. The company also has two other cancer compounds in earlier stages of development.

canopy-financial-logo-150px.jpgCanopy Financial raises $15M for outsourced healthcare management — Canopy Financial, a San Francisco developer of healthcare information systems, raised $15 million in a first funding round. Granite Global Ventures provided the funding.

Canopy sells systems for managing “consumer-oriented” health plans such as health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts. These are plans that purport to reduce healthcare costs by making individuals “responsible” for their medical spending, in effect by requiring them to pay for doctor and hospital visits out of a pre-established and often tax-exempt account to which employers may or may not contribute.

Clinical diagnostics maker Laboratory Partners pulls in $16M — Palo Alto, Calif.-based Laboratory Partners (no Web site), a provider of diagnostic tests to hospitals and other healthcare providers, raised $16 million in a fourth funding round, VentureWire reports (subscription required). The company said the funding will allow it to pursue acquisitions in the field.

Investors in the round included Primus Capital Funds (which put up $10 million), Oxford Bioscience Partners, Chrysalis Ventures and Fort Washington Capital Partners Group. Lab Partners has previously raised $26 million in venture funding, VentureWire reports.

syndevrx-logo-150px.gifSynDevRx targets $11M for cancer drugs — SynDevRx, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech developing new cancer drugs, is looking to raise $11 million in a first funding round, VentureWire reports. The company is pursuing an anti-angiogenic compound — that is, a drug candidate intended to block the growth of new blood vessels in tumors — originally developed in the lab of Children’s Hospital researcher Judah Folkman.

SynDevRx, founded in 2007, says this family of compounds may also be useful in other disease, including age-related macular degeneration, endometriosis and fluid retention (edema). The funding will allow the company to move its lead candidate, Caplostatin, into clinical trials. The compound caused side effects in previous clinical trials, but has since been re-engineered in hopes of mitigating that toxicity.