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TODAY’S HEADLINES:

tacere-logo-150px.gifTacere Therapeutics strikes RNAi deal with Pfizer for up to $145M — San Jose, Calif.-based Tacere Pharmaceuticals, a biotech developing new drugs based on the gene-silencing technique known as RNA interference, struck a partnership deal with Pfizer that could be worth up to $145 million. The company’s release is here.

The deal involves Tacere’s leading drug candidate for hepatitis C. Known as TT-033, the drug consists of short stretches of RNA designed to trigger cellular mechanisms that shut down the activity of specific genes — an exciting but so far still unproven approach. In this case, TT-033 aims to shut down three separate parts of the hepatitis C genome, theoretically not only inactivating the virus, but also preventing the development of resistant viral strains.

Tacere is already co-developing TT-033 with Oncolys BioPharma of Japan, and in fact has deep Japanese roots, as the company also received its founding capital from Hokkaido Venture Capital of Sapporo, Japan. (Our coverage of the Oncolys deal is here.) The Pfizer deal appears to be complementary to Tacere’s previous agreement, as the Big Pharma will receive worldwide rights to TT-033 excluding Asian nations. Pfizer will fund all future development of the drug, and will make milestone payments to Tacere as development proceeds. TT-033 has not yet entered human testing.

aragon-sugical-logo-150px.gifSurgical-device maker Aragon Surgical receives $25M — Aragon Surgical, a Palo Alto, Calif., developer of surgical instruments, raised $25 million in a second funding round. Investors included Bay City Capital, Integral Capital Partners, Delphi Ventures and Onset Ventures.

Founded in 2005, Aragon develops tools and instruments intended to speed surgical procedures and to improve their safety. The company is working on two major classes of devices — “electrosurgical” instruments, which use electric current to stop bleeding, remove growths and cut tissue, and tools that improve the speed and safety of minimally invasive surgeries known as laparoscopies. Last September, Aragon launched its first product, the LapCap, which guides a needle used to inflate a patient’s abdomen with gas in order to reduce the risk of inaccurate placement and injury.

benvenue-logo-150px.jpgBenvenue Medical raises $15M for spine-repair devices — Mountain View, Calif.-based Benvenue Medical, a developer of minimally invasive devices for spine surgery, raised $15 million in a second funding round. Investors included Three Arch Partners, Versant Ventures and De Novo Ventures.

Benvenue is developing spinal implants designed for the treatment of spinal compression fractures and degenerative disk disease via spinal fusion. The company’s Web site is a stub, and it doesn’t seem to have described its technology in much detail yet.

Stem-cell biotech BioE seeks $3.5M — St. Paul, Minn.-based BioE, a provider of stem-cell products for the drug and biotech industries, hopes to raise $3.5 million in a first funding round, VentureWire reports (subscription required). The company has so far raised $30 million from angel investors, and disclosed its plans in a regulatory filing. The funds will allow the company to commercialize lines of “multi-lineage” progenitor stem cells and a system for processing and freezing of umbilical-cord blood stem cells.

Inovise raises $3.4M for heart diagnostics — Inovise Medical, a Portland, Ore., developer of cardiac diagnostics, raised $3.4 million in convertible notes, VentureWire reports, citing a regulatory filing. The company is in the midst of fundraising for a sixth financing round. Inovise makes a non-invasive cardiac monitoring system called Audicor that records and analyzes sounds emitted by a beating heart.

Fairway Medical pockets $1M for medical devices, aims for $10M — Fairway Medical Technologies, a Houston incubator that develops a variety of medical devices, raised $1 million from angel investors and is looking to draw another $5 million to $10 million in a first institutional round later this year, VentureWire reports. Founded in 1992, Fairway Medical in-licenses medical devices and ushers them through the development process.

Cancer-drug biotech Genspera pulls in $650K, looks for $5M more — Santa Monica, Calif.-based Genspera, a biotech focused on cancer drugs, raised $650,000 in a seed round and aims to close another $5 million in funding later this quarter, VentureWire reports. The company plans to list its shares on the Nasdaq over-the-counter bulletin board following the financing. Genspera is working on cancer drugs using technology licensed from Johns Hopkins University.

E-trolZ looks for $400K for electrophysiology devices — North Andover, Mass.-based E-trolZ, a developer of electrophysiology measurement devices, raised $400,000 in a follow-on to its first $1.2 million funding round, VentureWire reports. The company is developing components that measure various physiological signals and which can be integrated into other medical devices.

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