micell-logo.gifFor Micell Technologies, a Raleigh, N.C., materials company that recently reinvented itself as a developer of drug-releasing stents, perhaps the third time will be the charm.

Founded in 1995, Micell specializes in the use of supercritical fluids, which are highly compressed gases that exhibit both gas and liquid properties. The company initially marketed liquefied carbon-dioxide systems to dry cleaners as an ecofriendly alternative to a solvent known as perchloroethylene. Its machines, however, were expensive, and Micell sold the garment-cleaning business in 2002.

The company next explored ways to use its carbon-dioxide technology to clean and process semiconductor wafers, a business that appears to have gone nowhere fast. According to VentureWire (subscription required), the company also looked into industrial-fabric applications, also apparently with little success.

Three years ago, Micell hit upon the notion of using carbon dioxide to apply drug coatings to medical devices and turned its attention to stents, the expandable mesh-like tubes that doctors use to prop open clogged arteries. The company’s strategy is to use its supercritical-fluid technology — developed jointly with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory — to provide superior drug coatings, which are intended to slowly emanate from the stent mesh in order to suppress scar-tissue growth that can re-block an artery. Current drug-coated stents appear effective at preventing scar tissue in the short run, but have also raised worries that they might increase the risk of dangerous blood clots over time.

Micell claims that its technology may make possible entirely new drug coatings on stents and other devices that may prevent such problems. In April, the company presented data on stents coated with heparin, a blood thinner, and sirolimus, an immune suppressant.

Today, Micell raised $7 million in what, despite its long history, it is calling a first funding round, according to VentureWire. Invemed Catalyst Fund and the GE Pension Plan provided the cash. Prior to a recapitalization a few years ago, the company had raised $60 million, VentureWire reported. Micell figures that the latest funding will last it a year, enough to produce some laboratory-animal data on the effectiveness of its coated stents.