Life-science briefing: Thursday, March 27, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

Breathe Tech raises $15M for respiratory disease – Breathe Technologies, a Fremont, Calif., medical device maker, raised $15 million in a second round of funding. Investors included Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Synergy Partners International, Delphi Ventures and Life Science Angels.

Breathe is developing “compact” and “lightweight” respiratory systems for the hospital and home markets, and estimates that annual sales of the devices its equipment could enhance or replace amount to $2 billion. The Breathe ventilators could be used by patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, and other lung disorders.

pieris-logo-150px.gifProtein-drug maker Pieris takes in €25M – Pieris, a German biotech pursuing a new form of protein-based drug, raised €25 million ($38 million) in a second funding round. Investors included OrbiMed Advisors, Novo Nordisk, Global Life Science Ventures, Gilde Healthcare Partners and Forbion Capital Partners.

Pieris is the latest biotech to think it can improve on monoclonal antibodies as drug candidates by developing its own engineered protein structures. The startup calls its protein structures Anticalins — they’re derived from a class of human proteins called lipocalins — and says they’re smaller and simpler than monoclonals with similar power to selectively bind to particular molecular targets.

Pieris joins a number of other companies pursuing similar strategies, including Adnexus Therapeutics, which sold itself to Bristol-Myers Squibb for $430 million, and Molecular Partners, a Swiss biotech working on modular proteins it calls DARPins. Although these are all interesting ideas, none have yet proven themselves, and all have to address a potentially significant hurdle — the fact that none of these engineered proteins are likely to engage the immune system’s disease-fighting elements the way monoclonal antibodies often do.

apthera-logo-150px.gifApthera takes in $2.1M toward cancer vaccine – Apthera, a Scottsdale, Ariz., biotech working on therapeutic cancer vaccines, raised $2.1 million of an expected $3.9 million second funding round, VentureWire reports. Investors included the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Blackmont Capital, Land Ventures and individuals.

Apthera is developing a vaccine intended to stimulate an immune response against breast-cancer cells. The startup plans to start a late-stage, phase III trial of the vaccine in the fourth quarter of this year, and hopes to raise another $10 million later this year to finance the test.