Life sciences briefing: Friday, Feb. 29, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

arriva-logo-150px.gifArriva Pharma recaps with $6M for respiratory anti-inflammatory drugs – Arriva Pharmaceuticals, an Alameda, Calif., drug developer focused on inflammatory respiratory disease, raised $6 million in a convertible-stock funding that recapitalized the company. Investors included Nordic Biotech and MPM BioVentures.

Arriva is working on a bioengineered form — that is, one that can be manufactured via biotech methods — of an enzyme called alpha-1 antitrypsin, which is currently derived from donated blood. Natural deficiencies of the enzyme are linked to lung disease, and Arriva hopes to use a manufactured version to treat hereditary emphysema.

The company has been locked in litigation over the rights to the enzyme with the Florida startup AlphaMed Pharmaceuticals (see our coverage here), and filed for bankruptcy protection last year, according to VentureWire. Now emerging from that process, Arriva is looking to start mid-stage, phase II trials of its recombinant enzyme. Arriva is a majority-owned unit of the Dutch firm Arriva Pharmaceuticals BV.

sciona-logo-150px.gifGenetic tester Sciona gets another $5.2M, distribution deal – Sciona, a Boulder, Colo., startup that offers genetic testing related to health and well-being, raised $5.2 million in a third funding round, VentureWire reports and the company confirms. Investors included Burrill & Co., BioVentures Investors, DSM Ventures, DFJ Esprit and BASF Venture Capital. The funding brings the company’s third round to a total of at least $15 million.

Sciona claims to combine nutrition and genetics in order to help individuals live healthier lifestyles. Its tests measure genetic predisposition to particular diseases and generates nutrition, exercise and lifestyle recommendations. You might think this sort of thing sounds like it runs way ahead of what science actually knows about genetic influence on our physical traits and disease susceptibility — and you’d almost certainly be right. The glitzy Web site for the company’s tests, which resembles a late-night TV infomercial, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the company’s scientific underpinnings, either.

On top of all that, Sciona just reached a distribution arrangement with Spa Team International that will provide the companies tests through a network of 1,000 spas nationwide.