Life-science briefing: Friday, April 11, 2008

TODAY’S HEADLINES:

[Note: I’m a little sad to announce that this will be my last life-science briefing at VentureBeat, although with luck, it won’t be the end of my time here. Starting Monday, I’ll be blogging regularly on the drug industry and healthcare over at BNET Industries, a new CNET venture, so drop by if you can. (Preparing for that move is the main reason non-briefing posts have been scarce recently.) I still hope to post here occasionally as well, since covering below-the-radar startups has been a blast, and I’m not ready to give it up quite yet.

It’s been a great year — my first VentureBeat post was on April 3, 2007 — and I want to thank Matt for the opportunity to join you here, and all our regular readers and commenters for your time and your insights. As journalists, we’re only as good as our sources and readers, and you guys have helped in countless ways to make me look much smarter than I really am. –D.P.H.]

Stent maker IDev Tech raises $25M – IDev Technologies, a Houston medical-device startup, raised $25 million in a third funding round, VentureWire reports. The company is developing a new type of stent for use in propping open the liver’s bile ducts .

The company’s existing investors, a group that includes Bay City Capital, Heron Capital, PTB Sciences and RiverVest Venture Partners, provided the funding. IDev had previously raised $24 million, according to VW.

Xytis gets $15M for brain-injury drugs – Irvine, Calif.-based Xytis, a biotech focused on disorders of the central nervous system, raised $15 million in an extension of its second funding round, VentureWire reports. Its backers included Atlas Venture, CDC Innovation, Sanderling Ventures and Ventech.

The company says it was founded in 2005 from the merger of Xytis Pharmaceuticals and Remergent. (Sounds more to me like Xytis swallowed Remergent, but they’re free to describe it however they’d like.) Its lead drug candidate, XY2405, blocks a cellular protein called the Bradykinin B2 receptor, a signaling molecule thought to promote inflammation.

Xytis is testing the drug as a potential treatment for traumatic brain injury; the molecule is currently in mid-stage, phase II trials. The company is also testing an antidepressant in early-stage trials.

Xytis raised half the money last August, then received the second $7.5 million in April, the company told VentureWire. It has previously raised $24.5 million in its current incarnation, and its “predecessor companies” pulled in $6.5 million.

Diagnostic maker Iris Biotech plans to go public, launch breast-cancer test – Santa Clara, Calif.-based Iris Biotechnologies, a developer of molecular diagnostic tests, is preparing to go public, VentureWire reports. The company plans a small offering on the OTC Bulletin Board — if I’m reading its latest SEC filing correctly, its existing shareholders will raise about $1.1 million, with no proceeds headed to the company  — and hopes to launch a breast-cancer test later this year.

Iris plans to use chips to measure gene activity in breast cancer, with the hope of predicting the odds that a surgically removed tumor will recur and, eventually, helping patients and doctors customize cancer treatment from an early stage. The company claims that it will be competitive with Genomic Health and Agendia, two companies with similar tests for predicting breast-cancer recurrence.

There’s something a little odd about Iris’ disclosures in the SEC forms, though. Iris doesn’t describe its technology, the genes it will test or how it settled on them in any detail, and spends almost as much time talking about its database of patient information and related computer technology as it does about its tests. While it may consider some or all of that information a trade secret — and disclosure requirements may well be looser for such a small offering — it’s still kind of unusual for a startup to ask outside investors to put up their money essentially on faith.