Elevation Partners Grabs $17M, NanoSort Wins Grants, NIH Collaborates with Afraxis on Rare Disease R&D, & More San Diego Life Sciences News

9/29/11Follow @bvbigelow

Funding needed to advance innovative technologies came in small dollops for several local life sciences startups last week, although one company got a big serving. Our weekly briefing begins now.

—San Diego’s Elevation Partners, which has been developing a long-lasting aerosol drug for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, took in a $17 million tranche in a Series A financing that was previously disclosed. The company also reported some of its clinical results at the European Respiratory Society meeting in Amsterdam.

—The National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded a two-year, $297,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant and a nine-month, $198,000 contract to San Diego-based NanoSort to develop devices capable of detecting circulating tumor cells using two new approaches. NanoSort, a development-stage biomedical device company, said it is working to use lab-on-a-chip technologies to drastically reduce the size and cost of high-performance flow cytometers and related equipment for research, diagnostics, and drug discovery.

—San Diego’s Naviscan, which won European clearance earlier this month to market its high-resolution Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanners, raised almost all of a nearly $400,000 round of debt, rights, and securities, according to a recent regulatory filing. The scanner is predominantly used for mammography and guided breast biopsies. Since 2007, Naviscan has raised more than $17.5 million from Mayo Medical Ventures, QuestMark Partners, Sanderling Ventures and Walker Ventures, according to VentureWire.

Connect, the nonprofit group supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in San Diego, named 24 finalists for its annual Most Innovative Product awards, including six life sciences entries. The San Diego-area finalists selected for innovative products in diagnostics and research are Biocept, Life Technologies, and Targeson. The finalists selected for medical products are Hypnoz Therapeutic Devices, IOS Technologies, and Optimer Pharmaceuticals.

—San Diego-based Targeson, which makes ultrasound-imaging agents for use in biomedical research, introduced an innovative substance that consists of microspheres covered with a small molecule that binds only to VCAM-1, a key molecule in the lining of blood vessels in mice. The company said its contrast agent can be used for molecular imaging of inflammation as scientists use mice to model atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes.

—San Diego’s Oranovo, which is developing bio printing technology, is raising $1.5 million through a combination of debt, rights, and securities, according to a recent regulatory filing. Organovo CEO Keith Murphy told me in July that revenue generated by partnerships with Big Pharmas had enabled the startup to push back last year’s plans to raise additional capital.

—San Diego-based Afraxis, which has been funded entirely so far by Avalon Ventures, said it would partner with the National Institutes of Health under its Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Disease program to advance work on its preclinical drug candidates. Afraxis has been developing drugs to treat rare genetic diseases through the modulation of p21-activated kinase (PAK), based on research from the MIT laboratory of Afraxis’ scientific co-founder and Nobel Laureate, Dr. Susumu Tonegawa.

—The House Committee on Health and Commerce held a field hearing in San Diego to collect comments about the FDA and regulations governing the development of new drugs, diagnostics, and medical devices. Inconsistent policies and time-consuming reviews by the FDA have been hampering the development of innovative therapies and chasing away investors, according to Keith Darce’s coverage in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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