Pushing Past Preclinical, Arsenal and 480 Biomedical Land $26.5M

[Updated 6/18/15, 9:30 a.m. See below.Arsenal Medical and 480 Biomedical, a pair of Watertown, MA-based companies founded by famed scientists Robert Langer and George Whitesides, are taking $26.5 million in combined venture funding as the businesses seek to bring a group of medical products to the clinical stage.

480 Biomedical has developed two dissolvable, bioreabsorbable stents meant to treat femoral artery disease in adults and children, and the potential narrowing or obstruction of arteries it causes. The company’s bioresorbable scaffold is meant to replace balloons or metal stents used to treat the condition, which can be ineffective, may require frequent replacement, or may require surgery to remove, says Maria Palasis, CEO and president of both 480 Biomedical and Arsenal Medical.

“Not only does the scaffold need to dissolve away but it also needs to have the mechanical properties of a metal stent, at least acutely, to hold it open during the healing period,” Palasis says.

It is less odd than it seems that Palasis runs both businesses. 480 Biomedical spun out of Arsenal in 2011 when the companies received a total of $18 million in new funding ($15 million for 480 and $3 million for Arsenal) from Polaris Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners, and Intersouth Partners. Those investors led the most recent round as well, which provided $16 million for Arsenal and $10.5 million for 480 Biomedical.

[This paragraph was added to update new funding announcements.] 480 Biomedical announced an additional $1.2 million in funding June 18 that will be added to the most recent Series C round, bringing the total to $11.7 million. The financing, provided by Broadview Ventures, is specifically focused on the pediatric bioresorbable scaffold. Meanwhile, Dublin, Ireland-based Medtronic also announced June 18 it invested an undisclosed amount in a subsidiary of Arsenal.

The division of companies and assets originally happened because some of 480’s funding came from a strategic investor that did not have an interest in investing in Arsenal at the time, says Palasis, who took the helm of both companies in January and has worked at Arsenal since 2008. That investor, which has been kept anonymous, also participated in the new round.

480 Biomedical is pursuing clinical trials in New Zealand and Europe for the stent technology, and plans to enroll 70 patients in a clinical study in Europe that may last through next year, Palasis says. The company plans to seek commercialization in the Europe after, she says. 480 Biomedical is not currently pursuing a trial in the U.S. but may after the European study, she says.

Meanwhile, Arsenal, which was founded in 2005 as WMR Biomedical, has developed a foam technology that is used to treat trauma of various kinds. Arsenal has received $22.5 million from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for a foam that would be used for soldiers who suffer abdominal injuries in the battlefield.

The product limits bleeding in the patients; when introduced to the body, it spreads, foams, and applies pressure to the injury, slowing the bleeding, Palasis says. The company has developed other foams that could be used in surgeries or for people injured in car accidents, she says.

Arsenal also has a nanofiber and microfiber technology that is meant to deliver biologics and therapeutics. Palasis, who previously worked as the R&D director at Boston Scientific, says the Arsenal and 480 are still preclinical from a product standpoint.

While it has taken 10 years for Arsenal and 480 Biomedical to reach this point, during much of which Arsenal was operating in stealth mode, as Xconomy reported in 2009, Langer and Whiteside remain on both companies’ boards, Palasis says. And their original vision is still intact.

“That’s what’s central to our company, central to both companies,” she says.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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