Life sciences briefing: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

InSound Medical raises $11M for “invisible” hearing aids – This item is a standalone post here.

corventis-logo-150px.gifCorventis takes in $20M for heart-failure therapy – San Jose, Calif.-based Corventis, a startup working on ways to monitor the vital signs of heart-failure patients, raised $19.9 million in a second funding round, according to Dana Mead, a Corventis board member and VC at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Investors in the round included Kleiner Perkins, Mohr Davidow Ventures and DAG Ventures, Mead said.

Mead declined to further describe Corventis, which remains in stealth mode. The startup, however, is sponsoring a clinical trial (see its registration in the federal clinical-trials database) in which it intends to monitor heart-failure patients with some kind of “multi-sensor” device it calls the MUSE Clinical System.

While MUSE isn’t described in detail, it appears to be a non-invasive monitor of some kind designed to measure various aspects of the heart’s function, presumably including ejection fraction (a measure of how well the heart is pumping blood) and blood pressure within the heart, two measures that generally require doctors to thread sensors through a patient’s veins into the heart itself. The Corventis trial isn’t yet enrolling patients. (UPDATE: In a subsequent email, Mead said the trial has begun enrolling patients.)

Molecular diagnostics user AssureRx raises $1M – AssureRx, a Mason, Ohio, startup working on new molecular diagnostics for personalized medicine, raised more than $1 million in new funding, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Blue Chip Venture Co., CincyTech USA and several individual investors provided the funding.

AssureRx is developing a new test licensed from Children’s Hospital and the Mayo Clinic intended to help doctors determine the best doses of antidepressants and other drugs for individual patients. The Enquirer story didn’t go into much detail, but it sounds as though the company may be measuring variation in genes that influence how quickly the body breaks down, or metabolizes, drugs, such as cytochrome P450.

UPDATE: Belatedly — as in a full week later — AssureRx put out this release on the funding. The only additional news seems to be that the startup’s tests look at several genes, not just one.

arresto-logo-150px.gifArresto Biosciences, cancer-drug developer, raises funds – Arresto BioSciences, a Palo Alto, Calif., biotech developing a new class of cancer drugs, has raised an undisclosed sum in two funding rounds since last May, VentureWire reports. Investors included Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and HealthCare Ventures.

Arresto is developing drugs that attack the “extracellular matrix,” a tissue layer that provides structural support to cells. Under certain conditions, changes in the extracellular matrix appear to play a role in the development of cancer, as well as “fibrotic” disease such as cirrhosis and pulmonary fibrosis.

San Diego’s Obalon raises $4.7M for drug discovery – Obalon, a stealthy San Diego drug developer, raised $4.7 million of an anticipated $7.7 million first funding round, peHUB reports. Investors included Domain Associates, Okapi Ventures and Phagia Technology.