Deals

Life-science briefing: Thursday, March 20, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

Vantia Thera spins out of Ferring, raises £19M – Vantia Therapeutics, a U.K. spinout of Ferring Pharmaceuticals, has launched and raised £19 million ($37.7 million) in a first funding round (PDF link). Investors included MVM Life Science Partners, SV Life Sciences and Novo A/S.

Vantia inherits a collection of traditional “small molecule” drugs from its parent, including two that are already in clinical trials. Both drug candidate target the hormone vasopressin, which among other things regulates the body’s retention of water. One candidate is being tested as a possible treatment for enlarged prostate, the other for painful menstruation.

Diabetes tester Oculir closes doors, returns capital – Oculir Inc., a San Diego startup that aimed to develop a non-invasive glucose-testing device for diabetics, has instead shut down, VentureWire reports. The startup, founded in 2003, was working on technology designed to measure blood-sugar levels using infrared light bounced off the white of the eye. Such testing currently requires diabetics to prick their fingers for a tiny blood sample, often several times a day.

Unfortunately, the technology proved too challenging for the company and its backers. “It turned into a research project, and our venture investors wanted to invest in development, not research,” CEO John Burd told the news service.

Oculir raised $7.3 million back in December 2005 from Onset Ventures, CHL Medical Partners, Canaan Partners, Three Arch Partners, Shepherd Ventures and Windamere Venture Partners. It now plans to return an undisclosed sum to its investors — a fairly clear sign that Oculir’s VCs demanded that the company wind down its operations.

catalyst-health-logo-150px.gifCatalyst Health Ventures raising $60M fund – Catalyst Health Ventures, a Newton, Mass., VC firm, hopes to raise a $60 million second fund, VentureWire reported. The fund will invest in medical-device, diagnostics, instrument and drug-screening startups.

Catalyst had pulled in $3.5 million of a planned $25 million as of Feb. 14. The firm intends to focus on early-stage companies and is looking to invest in six or more startups, often with initial investments of $2 million to $3 million.

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