Life-science briefing: Wednesday, March 26, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

OptiMedica takes in $16M for eye-treatment lasers – OptiMedica, a Santa Clara, Calif., medical-device maker, raised $16 million in a third funding round. Investors included Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Alloy Ventures and DAG Ventures.

The startup makes and sells an eye-treatment laser system called Pascal — the acronym stands for “pattern scan laser” — which is approved for treating of retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and other conditions involving the abnormal growth of blood vessels that can leak and obscure vision. The laser works by “photocoagulation,” which simply means it burns and fuses tissue at the point of focus — sealing off blood vessels, for instance, healing tears in the retina or even reattaching a retina that’s come loose.

Genome analyzer BioNanomatrix raises $5M – This item is now a standalone post here.

Heart diagnostic startup Aviir gets another $1.5M – Palo Alto, Calif.-based Aviir, a biotech focused on heart diagnostics, raised an additional $1.5 million as a follow-on to its second funding round, the company’s chief operating officer, Avi Kulkarni, said. The money is an equity investment related to a still-undisclosed partnership with a large pharmaceutical company, he told me.

Aviir is still in stealth mode, as we noted last year when we first wrote about its use of Stanford technology for detection and monitoring of cardiovascular disease. Kulkarni did offer a few additional details, telling me, for instance, that the company’s name is actually an acronym that stands for “atherosclerotic venous inflammation and insulin resistance.”

That, plus the fact that Aviir is working on what Kulkarni said is a “multiple biomarker panel assay” for heart disease, suggests to me that the company plans on measuring the levels of various proteins, probably from blood, in order to get a more precise picture of stressors such as inflammation and insulin resistance that might lead to heart problems. (“Insulin resistance” is an interesting choice, since that’s the cause — or the effect, perhaps — of type 2 diabetes, which is also linked to heart trouble.)

Aviir raised $11.5 million of a planned $25 million round last September, it disclosed in an SEC form now available online (PDF link) via the California Department of Corporations. The remainder of that round will become available when the company hits unspecified milestones.

For a look at the sort of thing Aviir is probably working on, check out this 2007 paper from Physiological Genomics, in which a research team from Stanford and Aviir detail the use of inflammatory proteins known as chemokines to identify patients with atherosclerosis. On the more whimsical side, a self-described friend of the company’s founders describes what he knows about Aviir on his blog, and also posts a odd homemade video “commercial” that suggests the company will be predicting lifetime disease risks for infants.