Life sciences briefing: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

Adnavance pulls in C$3.7M for molecular diagnostics, names new CEO – This item is now a standalone post here.“Personalized medicine” co. Proprius sells to Cypress Bio for up to $75M – Proprius Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego diagnostics maker, sold itself to publicly traded Cypress Bioscience for up to $75 million in cash. The company’s release is here.

Cypress will pay $37.5 million up front, and another $37.5 million to Proprius shareholders as milestone payments. Proprius licenses and develops drugs and diagnostics for various forms or arthritis. Its most immediate product candidates include tests that aim to predict whether certain individuals will develop rheumatoid arthritis and that monitor patients’ response to methotrexate, a common treatment for RA.

vaccinex-logo-150px.gifVaccinex raises $25M in wake of GSK deal for antibody drugs – Rochester, N.Y.-based Vaccinex, a developer of antibody drugs, raised $25 million in an add-on to its second funding round, VentureWire reports. Investors included Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Pan Atlantic Bank and Trust and individual investors.

Earlier this month, Vaccinex and its partner EUSA Pharma licensed a Vaccinex antibody to GlaxoSmithKline for up to $44 million plus royalties. Vaccinex and EUSA will split any profits from GSK’s potential sales of the drug.

cianna-logo-150px.gifCianna Medical receives $9M for breast-cancer radiation treatment – Cianna Medical, an Alisa Viejo, Calif., developer of devices for delivering local radiation in breast cancer, raised $9 million in a first funding round. Fog City Fund, Windamere Venture Partners and several private individuals provided the cash.

Cianna, which was spun out of BioLucent when it was acquired by Hologic last year, is working on new devices for brachytherapy, the general term for temporarily implanting radioactive material at the site of a tumor in order to provide localized radiation treatment. The Cianna device is designed to improve upon existing brachytherapy techniques in breast cancer.

nanoimaging-logo-150px.gifElectron-microscope image provider NanoImaging takes in $1.5M – San Diego’s NanoImaging Services, a provider of imaging services involving transmission electron microscopy, raised $1.5 million in a funding round. Merck Capital Ventures led the round. The company specializes in the characterization of large biological molecules such as proteins, which are used in a variety of products such as vaccines and drugs.

cg-pharma-logo-150px.gifCrystalGenomics, ProQuest Investments create new JV, Palkion – Today’s award for most baffling announcement comes courtesy of CrystalGenomics, an Emeryville, Calif.-based U.S. unit of the Korean drug-discovery company CG Pharmaceuticals, and ProQuest Investments, a New Jersey VC firm, who together have formed a joint venture they’re calling Palkion. Their release is here.

What is Palkion going to do? Beats me. Here’s what the release says:

Under this agreement, CrystalGenomics will receive up to $6 million in upfront and initial research funding from Palkion, in addition to development and sales milestone payments of potentially more than $200 million. CrystalGenomics will also initially own 50% of Palkion, Inc. ProQuest will capitalize Palkion with a Series A investment and also provide the management personnel for Palkion. CG will use its unique structure-based drug design capabilities to identify drug candidates while Palkion will oversee the clinical development of novel drug candidates.

So, let’s get this straight. CrystalGenomics and ProQuest form Palkion, in which they’ll hold equal stakes despite the fact that ProQuest seems to be putting all the capital and personnel into the venture. Palkion will then start handing the money to CrystalGenomics, which will continue trying to discover drugs while Palkion “oversees” the process of testing those drugs in people. All clear?

The best I can figure is that this is a roundabout way of putting a more “American” face on a basically Korean startup that — to judge from its Web site and, in fact, this press release — seems to have a certain amount of difficulty communicating clearly with a U.S. audience. That could certainly be a problem if its drugs make it into clinical trials, given how dialogue with the FDA becomes rather crucial at that stage. But that’s just my guess at this point.

Stealthy biotech Affomic takes in $7M – Affomic, a New Haven, Conn., biotech startup so stealthy that it can announce a funding without giving anyone a clue as to what it’s doing, raised $7 million in a first financing round, peHUB reports. Investors included Connecticut Innovations, Elm Street Ventures, and Four Seasons Ventures. It goes without saying that Affomic doesn’t have a Web site — in fact, the startup doesn’t even exist so far as Google is concerned.