Life sciences briefing: Friday, Feb. 22, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

Another slow news day, as yesterday we covered most of the fundings other sites are writing about today. I’ll update if anything else crops up. In the meantime, feel free to check out yesterday’s briefing or any other items here.

HemCon Medical acquires Alltracel Pharma – This item is now a standalone post here.Transoma Medical, implantable wireless device maker, withdraws its IPO – Transoma Medical, a St. Paul, Minn., maker of implantable wireless diagnostic sensors, formally withdrew its $77.6 million IPO. Transoma postponed its IPO earlier this month; unsurprisingly, the company cited “unfavorable market conditions” as the reason for its withdrawal.

Transoma is one of several startups working on ways to monitor the vital signs of sick or at-risk patients in ways that don’t require invasive procedures or constant visits to the doctor’s office. The company’s devices, which received FDA approval last October, involve an implantable recorder that monitors a patient’s heartbeat and a handheld wireless device that records the data and regularly transmits it to a physician’s office via a home-installed base station.

The company has raised just over $25 million in three funding rounds since its founding in 1984, when it was known as Data Sciences International. Although Transoma generates close to $40 million a year from sales of its older diagnostic products, it is still burning cash at a rate of roughly $4.3 million every quarter. As of Sept. 30, 2007, Transoma held $26.1 million in cash, equivalents, and working capital, so its cash situation isn’t yet dire; if those trends hold, it will be down to about $17 million by the end of March. Don’t be surprised if Transoma hits the fundraising hustings again before long.

changehealthcare-logo-150px.gifMedBillManager adopts new name as parent company change:healthcare aims for March 3 relaunch – MedBillManager, a site that helps people sort through complex medical expenses, will adopt a new name and Web site as it relaunches on March 3. Its parent company, Nashville, Tenn.-based change:healthcare, is consolidating its various Health 2.0 properties under its own name; these will now be available at www.changehealthcare.com.

The company announced the changes in an email; for a Web version, see here. A screenshot of the new site suggests that change:healthcare will now be emphasizing social networking as part of services for medical-bill management, finding and rating doctors, and comparing prices across various healthcare providers.

precision-tx-logo-150px.gifOracle Healthcare cuts Precision Thera acquisition price by roughly 15 percent – Back in December, the “blank check” acquisition company Oracle Healthcare Acquisition agreed to buy the Pittsburgh diagnostic biotech Precision Therapeutics in a transaction that was virtually impossible to value at the time. Only later did the companies indicate that the acquisition would cost Oracle around $150 million (based on the issuance of 19 million Oracle shares at a price of $7.90 apiece detailed in this prospectus).

Not any more, apparently. The two companies just agreed to reduce a key variable in the calculation that establishes how many shares Oracle will issue to Precision’s owners, cutting the deal’s value by approximately 15 percent to roughly $127.5 million. The details, however, remain a bit murky: The deal’s participants haven’t done anyone a favor by describing the ratio at which Precision shares will convert to Oracle shares in a dense, wordy paragraph. Complex calculations like this should be set out in an equation with clearly defined variables, dammit.

In addition, the proposed amendment to the merger deal will cause founders of Oracle to forfeit shares of the special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, currently worth $14.8 million. It will also eliminate a “top-up” provision that would have handed Precision shareholders extra Oracle stock if the SPAC’s share price declined.

What does all this add up to? It sure looks like everyone involved in the deal is getting a haircut of some kind, although why this is happening now isn’t remotely clear. I’m certainly tempted to think that Precision is turning out less of a bargain Oracle thought, but at this point, it’s impossible to know for sure.

For more about SPACs, see our coverage here.

UPDATE: The merger is dead.