Life-science briefing: Wednesday, April 9, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

stemline-logo-150px.gifStemline Therapeutics, cancer stem-cell startup, gets $13M – New York-based Stemline Therapeutics, a biotech focused on new cancer treatments, raised $12.5 million in a funding round. Healthcare funds managed by Pequot Capital Management provided the funding.

Stemline is one of several companies that hope to attack cancer by taking aim at cancer “stem cells,” which are thought to give rise to tumors the same way embryonic stem cells develop into the body’s 200+ types of tissue. One theory holds that conventional cancer chemotherapy often fails because while it can kill huge numbers of tumor cells, it tends to miss the stem cells that can migrate through the body and spark metastatic tumor growth.

Stemline already has one experimental drug against acute myeloid leukemia in early stage clinical trials, although it licensed that drug from the Texas A&M Health Science Center rather than discovering the molecule itself. The startup reports eight other drug candidates at an earlier stage of development.

Stemline has so far been overshadowed by the much flashier OncoMed, another cancer stem-cell startup that  last December struck a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline potentially worth $1.4 billion. It’s not clear, though, whether OncoMed has actually begun clinical trials of its leading drug candidate yet.

Eye-disease biotech Potentia Pharma raises $12M – Potentia Pharmaceuticals, a Louisville, Ky., biotech focused on eye diseases of the elderly, raised $12 million in an unspecified funding round. Backers include HealthCare Ventures and MASA Life Science Ventures.

Potentia hopes to treat a blinding disorder known as age-related macular degeneration by reducing inflammation. Specifically, the startup’s lead drug candidate, POT-4, inhibits the complement system, an arm of the body’s immune defenses that may be responsible for much of the damage associated with AMD.

Sample-prep toolmaker Arcxis aims for $8M to $10M – Pleasanton, Calif.-based Arcxis Biotechnologies, a maker of systems that prepare biological samples for analysis, hopes to raise $8 million to $10 million in a second funding round, VentureWire reports. The company raised $6.5 million in its first funding round, which took place in three installments from August 2006 through February 2008.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this item incorrectly stated that Arcxis raised $11.1 million in February and wrongly attributed that fact to VentureWire. Arcxis CEO Howard Goldstein emailed me with the correct numbers.