StrataGent Life Sciences, a San Jose developer of needle-free “microjet” injection systems, said it closed a $16 million second round of financing. The company has so far received $6.65 million of that round; the remainder should become available next year if and when StrataGent meets certain milestones.

The round was led by Essex Woodlands Health Ventures. Other investors include Quantum Technology Partners and Aphelion Capital.

StrataGent’s own description of what it’s up to in its funding release is somewhat cryptic. It touts the company’s microjet injection system, which sounds like something out of Star Trek, but figuring out exactly what it is takes some surfing around. According to this UC Santa Barbara press release, this PRish Web page from Stanford’s technology-licensing office, and this funding application posted at NIST‘s Advanced Technology Program, the StrataGent technology looks to be a microprocessor-controlled “patch” device that can deliver a large-molecule protein drug directly to the bloodstream. (Protein drugs have to be injected, since the digestive system would break them down too quickly if they’re delivered as pills.)

From the Stanford page:

Based on pulsed liquid microjet technology invented at Stanford, the device creates small, high-speed jets of liquid that penetrate the outer layer of the skin and precisely deposit drugs into the epidermis (the top layer of skin), enabling rapid absorption by the body, while avoiding the pain receptors that lie below in the dermis. This means that the device delivers drugs as effectively as an injection, but without needles.

It sounds pretty cool, although it’s worth remembering that people have been trying, and failing, to do something like this for some time. I’m particularly curious what wearing one of these patches does to your skin over time; StrataGent apparently believes it’s overcome the problem of pain and bruising caused by repeated microjet injections, but it will probably take clinical trials to know if that’s true.

StrataGent’s release also quotes Ron Eastman of Essex boasting about the company’s “pipeline of commercially attractive molecules,” so the company is also apparently reformulating various protein drugs for use with their microjet system. According to the Stanford page, StrataGent is partnered with an unidentified Japanese pharmaceutical company. As for which drugs they’re working with and where they stand in the process — well, the release is silent. Neither is StrataGent’s Web site much help — it’s “under construction.” (Hat tip: VentureWire.)