Life sciences briefing: Monday, Feb. 25, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

Microsoft launches $3M fund to support online health-improvement tools – Software giant Microsoft, hoping to make a splash at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in Orlando — don’t laugh; HIMSS is apparently the largest healthcare IT meeting in the world — announced a new $3 million fund intended to stimulate the development of online tools that “improve health.” In typical Redmond fashion, the fund will be known as the “Microsoft HealthVault Be Well Fund,” which is the sort of name only a committee could love.

Microsoft is soliciting grant applications in six areas ranging from primary and “secondary” prevention (essentially, the monitoring of vital signs such as blood pressure for hypertension or blood sugar for diabetes) to women’s and community health. The fund will make grants of up to $500,000, with selections made by “healthcare industry leaders” — read, representatives of Microsoft partners — chosen by the Microsoft Health Solutions Group.

Of course, funded applications must make use of Microsoft’s HealthVault platform, which we’ve written about here and here as a decidedly mixed bag of technologies and Web applications. Three million bucks sounds like a pretty trivial amount to spend to in an attempt to jump-start HealthVault, but I guess Microsoft has to start somewhere.

clarus-ventures-150px.gifClarus Ventures raises $660M life-science fund – Clarus Ventures, a Cambridge, Mass., VC firm, closed a second life-science fund of $660 million. The fund will aim to make investments of $20 million to $60 million in biotechnology, medical devices and specialty pharmaceuticals.

Clarus raised its first $500 million fund in Dec. 2006. That fund has made significant investments in a variety of life-science companies including Globus Medical (our coverage), Pelikan Technologies (our coverage) and Taligen Therapeutics (our coverage).

iverson-genetics-logo-150px.gifIverson Genetics raises $1.1M for blood-clotting tests, seeks $9.3M more – Iverson Genetic Diagnostics, a Seattle maker of molecular diagnostics, raised $1.1 million in a first funding round and hopes to close a $9.3 million second round within a few weeks, VentureWire reports. Individuals provided the first round of cash, and Iverson is courting a “strategic investor” — that is, a corporate or laboratory partner of some kind — for the second.

Iverson recently won FDA approval for a genetic test designed to predict patient response to warfarin, a commonly used generic blood thinner intended to prevent dangerous blood clots. Last August, the FDA required the drug’s manufacturers to note that certain genetic factors can help establish proper dosing of warfarin, which can cause internal bleeding at high doses. (See our coverage here.) Although two million people in the U.S. take warfarin every year, adoption of the genetic tests has been slow. Iverson is one of at least three companies now offering those tests, which Iverson plans to roll out first in the Seattle area.