Life sciences briefing: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

Aptamer-drug maker Archemix withdraws its $72.5 million IPO – I’ve expanded this news into a standalone item on the state of the life-science IPO market here.OraMetrix raises $20M for robotic orthodontic systems – Richardson, Tex.-based OraMetrix, a maker of 3-D robotic systems for orthodontic use, raised $20 million in a new funding round, peHUB reports. The financing is either a third round (as peHUB puts it) or a sixth (as VentureWire reports based on an interview with the company’s CFO). Existing investors, including Rho Capital Partners, Versant Ventures, Brentwood Venture Capital and Star Ventures, provided the cash.

Founded in 1998, OraMetrix makes and sells what it calls the SureSmile system for orthodontic braces. After taking a 3-D scan of a patient’s mouth, an orthodontist can then use the system’s computer modeling to develop a treatment plan. A robotic system then precisely bends the “archwires” that push teeth around.

OraMetrix claims the system shortens the duration of treatment and reduces office visits. The company has sold the system since 2004 and told VentureWire that it has installed SureSmile for more than 200 doctors, but says it needs to roughly double that figure to reach profitability.

arrayit-logo-150px.gifMicroarray maker TeleChem goes public via reverse merger – TeleChem International, a Sunnyvale, Calif., maker of gene-chip microarrays that is also known as ArrayIt, went public via a reverse merger with Integrated Media Holdings. The companies don’t quite call it a reverse merger, but given that IMH shares have traded at around two cents since September, the company has a shareholder’s deficit of $1.5 million and noted in its latest quarterly filing that there is “substantial doubt” about its ability to remain a going concern, the dots aren’t all that hard to connect.

Technically, IMH acquired TeleChem’s existing shares in exchange for 35 million shares of the merged company, which will undergo a one for 30 reverse split. At yesterday’s IMH close of, yes, two cents, that values the deal at about $21 million.

biovascular-logo-150px.gifBioVascular pulls in $11M for platelet-disease treatments – San Diego’s BioVascular, a specialty pharma focused on drugs for fighting blood clots related to heart surgery, raised $10.9 million in a third funding round. Investors included BB Biotech Ventures, Merck KGaA and Domain Associates.

The funds will allow BioVascular to complete early-stage trials of two drugs, saratin for the prevention of clotting in grafted vessels following heart-bypass operations, and BVI-007, a platelet-production inhibitor it acquired last year when it bought out the biotech Revitus.

cequent-pharma-logo-150px.gifCequent Pharma adds $4.5M for for RNAi drugs – Cequent Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge, Mass., developer of drugs based on the gene-silencing technique called RNA interference, added $4.5 million to its first funding round, VentureWire reports. The new cash, provided by existing investors Novartis Option Fund, Ampersand Ventures, Nexus Medical Partners and Pappas Ventures, brings Cequent’s total funding in the round to $13.5 million.

RNAi involves the use of short stretches of RNA that engage ancient cellular mechanisms for silencing the output of particular disease-related genes. RNA, however, doesn’t enter cells easily, so Cequent is working on a way to use genetically engineered, non-disease-causing bacteria that will enter human cells and produce the desired RNA molecules locally. We covered Cequent’s previous funding here.

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