Life sciences briefing: Monday, Feb. 4, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

progen-logo-150px.gifCellGate acquired by Australian cancer biotech ProGen for $2.5M –CellGate, a Redwood City, Calif., biotech working on new cancer drugs, sold itself to ProGen, an Australian biotech also focused on cancer, for the equivalent of about $2.5 million. The release is here. Needless to say, this represents a fire sale for a biotech that seems to have run out of time.

CellGate was pursuing drugs that aimed to shut down the growth of cancer cells either by inhibiting polyamine or by “turning down” the activity of cancer-related genes. ProGen will conduct an 18-month assessment of CellGate’s first drug candidate, a polyamine inhibitor that had already completed an early stage, phase I clinical trial, before deciding upon a mid-stage, phase II program. ProGen will also evaluate a stable of CellGate’s preclinical drug candidates.

ProGen will issue shares worth $1.5 million for CellGate’s assets, and will assume net liabilities of roughly another $1 million. The sale represents a significant loss for CellGate’s investors, including Healthcare ventures and New Enterprise Associates, who as recently as 2002 put $10 million into the company in a fourth funding round. I haven’t been able to piece together how much CellGate raised over its lifetime, although it’s certainly considerably more than that $10 million.

traversa-logo-150px.jpgTraversa raises $2M for RNAi-delivery technologies – Traversa Therapeutics, a La Jolla, Calif., biotech working on ways to deliver RNA-based drugs to their cellular targets, raised $2 million in a first financing round. Investors included San Diego Tech Coast Angels, Mesa Verde Venture Partners and Morningside Group.

Traversa’s work is intimately involved with RNA interference, a newly discovered technique for “silencing” disease-related genes using short strands of RNA that trigger a natural cellular mechanism for shutting down genes. Getting those short RNA molecules into cells in the first place, however, isn’t particularly easy.

Traversa claims to have solved that problem, although it doesn’t appear to be saying how. The company will license its RNA-delivery approach to drug companies, and also offers it for use as a drug-screening technology.

remitdata-logo-150px.gifRemitDATA, Web-based healthcare-service co., takes in $5M – Memphis, Tenn.-based RemitDATA, a provider of Web-based healthcare-data services, raised $5 million in a new funding round.Noro-Moseley Partners and SSM Partners provided the funding.

RemitDATA offers Web-based tools for individual physician practices designed to help them track insurance and Medicare reimbursements and scan paper records into digital form. The company also makes a sales-management tool for the homecare industry.

promedior-logo-150px.gifPromedior pulls down another $5.5M for fibrotic disease – Promedior, a Malvern, Pa., biotech focused on fibrotic disease, raised an additional $5.5 million as an extension to its first funding round. Polaris Venture Partners, Morgenthaler Ventures, HealthCare Ventures and Easton Capital participated in the financing.

Fibrotic disease is a general name for conditions that entail repeated bouts of inflammation followed by scarring that, over time, can lead to organ failure. Examples include heart failure, cirrhosis and kidney failure. Promedior aims to develop drugs that can slow or reverse the scarring process, and intends to begin clinical trials of its first drug candidate this year. The company previously raised $7 million in its first funding round.

Acrongenomics takes 11 percent stake in Molecular Vision – Acrongenomics, a Swiss company that acquires and develops life-sciences technology, took a 10.5 percent stake in Molecular Vision, a developer of credit-card sized diagnostic devices. Acrongenomics had previously announced its intent to acquire Molecular Vision, so presumably this is the first step in that plan. The release is here.

Hepatitis drug-developer Biolex withdraws IPO – Biolex Therapeutics, a Pittsboro, N.C., biotech developing ways to manufacture protein drugs in an aquatic-plant system, withdrew its planned $70 million IPO. We previously covered Biolex and its IPO dreams here.

NovaMin raises $2.5M for dental-care products – NovaMin, an Alachua, Fla., company working on tooth-remineralization products, raised $2.5 million in a third round of funding and expects another $2.5 million, VentureWire reports. Intersouth Partners provided the financing.

Cardious aims at $1.5M for heart-valve repair – Cardious, a Northfield, Minn., medical-device company working on a heart-valve bypass device, is raising $1.5 million in a first funding round, VentureWire reports. The company aims to raise the funds from angel investors. Cardious is developing an aortic-valve replacement that can be put in place on a beating heart, rerouting blood flow around the damaged valve.