A Medical Device Daily

Broncus Technologies (Mountain View, California), a medical device company developing products for emphysema and other lung diseases, said that it has closed a $38 million round of Series G funding, led by a $25 million investment from Ares Life Sciences, a Swiss- based private equity fund.

Almost all existing investors are participating in this round, including Abingworth, Bio*One/Singapore, Charter Ventures, HBM BioVentures, JAIC America, Menlo Ventures, Pac-Link Ventures, Saints Capital and Sightline Ventures.

Dr. Beat Merz from Ares Life Sciences will join Broncus' board.

"Broncus' solutions address a large and growing market demand for effective, minimally-invasive emphysema treatments and improvements in lung cancer care," said Jacques Theurillat, CEO of Ares Life Sciences. The company's strong leadership team, clinical trial experience, and proprietary medical technology were all leading factors in our investment decision."

Broncus is currently conducting the Exhale Airway Stents for Emphysema (EASE) trial, a pivotal randomized, double-blind clinical trial to study the safety and effectiveness of the Airway Bypass procedure. The objective is to seek pre-market approval by the FDA in 2010 as a class III implantable device.

Airway Bypass is designed to reduce lung hyperinflation and shortness of breath (the clinical hallmarks of emphysema) by creating new pathways for trapped air to exit the lungs.

Broncus has randomized 240 patients in the EASE Trial to date at 40 clinical sites around the world. The procedure initially is being studied in patients with homogeneous emphysema (estimated at about 65% of all people with emphysema) whose only treatment options are medical management and lung transplantation, both of which have significant limitations.

It is estimated there are some 4 million emphysema patients in the U.S. and 6 million to 8 million in Europe.

"With this round of funding, we will be able to complete our pivotal EASE trial for emphysema and start commercialization activities for our emphysema and lung cancer products," said Cary Cole, Broncus' president/CEO.

Broncus is focused on developing minimally-invasive medical devices for emphysema and other lung diseases.

Haemacure (Montreal), a specialty biotherapeutics company developing human plasma-derived protein products for commercialization, reported that is has confirmed the successful operation qualification of the fibrin sealant production equipment at its new plasma fractionation facility in Sarasota, Florida.

"I am very excited that we have achieved the important milestone of operation qualification, thus showing clear progress in our transition from a development to a manufacturing company. This allows us to take steps towards the next milestone of producing clinical lots of our lead product candidate, human fibrin sealant, and advancing it to market," said Joseph Galli, chairman/CEO of Haemacure. "Achieving this milestone also triggers the contractual obligation of CSL Behring [Melbourne, Australia] to pay Haemacure $1.5 million."

The successful operation qualification of the production equipment is one of three milestones, the achievement of which obligates CSL to pay Haemacure $4.5 million in total, pursuant to a settlement agreement entered into in 2002 in relation to the company's Hemaseel project. The achievement of each milestone obligates CSL to pay Haemacure US$1.5 million.

As previously reported, CSL has advised Haemacure that, in its view, it is no longer obligated to make the milestone payments. Haemacure said it strongly disputes the position of CSL and has, as a result, filed a request for arbitration with the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce to assert its right to collect the contractual milestone payments and, in particular, the payment due upon the operation qualification of production equipment.

Haemacure said it plans on achieving the second milestone during the first half of 2009 and the third milestone during the following 12 months.

The company said that plasma processing at the facility continues as planned and the product and production process are meeting expectations. It plans on achieving its first patient-in-the-clinic objective in the first half of 2009 and anticipates commercial launch of its fibrin sealant on the U.S. market in the first half of 2011.

In other financing news, WebMD Health (New York) reported that it has repurchased 640,930 shares of WebMD Class A Common Stock for about $12.8 million from the former owners of Subimo, which was acquired by WebMD in December 2006. In addition, WebMD paid the former owners of Subimo about $2.8 million in cash pursuant to the terms of the previously completed Subimo acquisition.

WebMD also reported the authorization of a stock repurchase program. Under the program, WebMD may use up to $30 million to purchase shares of its Class A common stock from time to time in the open market, through block trades or in private transactions, depending on market conditions and other factors.