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TODAY’S HEADLINES:

ocera-logo-150px.gifSan Diego’s Ocera raises $36M for gastrointestinal treatments —Ocera Therapeutics, a San Diego specialty pharma working on treatments for Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal complaints, raised $35.5 million in a third funding round. Investors included Montagu Newhall Associates, InterWest Partners, AgeChem Venture Fund, Cross Creek, FinTech, CDIB BioScience, Domain Associates, Sofinnova Ventures, and Thomas McNerney & Partners.

Ocera, founded in 2005, licenses existing drugs from overseas pharmaceutical companies and runs them through clinical trials to win approval in the U.S. and other areas. Its lead candidate, AST-120, is currently marketed in Japan and Korea for the treatment of chronic kidney disease. Ocera, which acquired U.S. and European rights to the drug from Japan’s Kureha, is currently conducting late-stage, phase III trials of the drug in fistulizing Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune condition that can lead to the formation of channels called fistula that can run from the bowels to the skin and other organs.

AST-120 is composed of spherical carbon designed to absorb acids, toxins and other compounds thought to play a role in various diseases. Ocera is also testing the drug as a potential treatment for pouchitis, an inflammation of the small intestine in people who have undergone removal of some or all of the large intestine; irritable bowel syndrome; inflammatory liver enlargement; and drug-resistant gastrointestinal reflux disease. The company has now raised a total of $62 million in venture investment.

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