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$16.5 million more for MicroCHIPS, to get trials started for its implantable device

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 7, 2010 09:00 AM

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Investors are handing another $16.5 million to MicroCHIPS, the Bedford-based start-up that has spent over a decade developing a new kind of implantable medical device capable of delivering drugs inside the body or sensing changing disease states. InterWest Partners is a new participant in this round, joining local firms Polaris Venture Partners, Flybridge Capital Partners, and corporate investors like Novartis and Medtronic.

This round, designated as the C round, brings the company's total funding to "just over $70 million," according to founder and CEO John Santini. It closed in October, Santini says, but the company is just announcing it today. "What can I say? We've been busy," he quips.

Since the company spun out of an MIT lab in 1999, MicroCHIPS has been chasing a futuristic vision: use implanted chips to dispense drugs over time, or expose sensors to the body's chemistry -- and allow doctors or patients to monitor and control the chips wirelessly.

The new funding will help support clinical trials -- the company's first in human patients -- in diabetes and osteoporosis. 

Santini also tells me that some of the money MicroCHIPS has raised is going toward a joint venture: a new company it created in collaboration with InterWest called On Demand Therapeutics, based in the San Francisco Bay area and led by Naveed Shams, a former executive at Genentech and OPKO Health. The ultra-stealthy On Demand, which will focus on delivering drugs to the eye, was formed last year but doesn't have its own Web site yet. (Here's an SEC filing that mentions the company, though.)

I spoke with Santini earlier this week about the funding and the company's 2010 plans.

Santini said that the diabetes trial will involve a MicroCHIPS device that can track glucose levels in the blood -- no needle-pokes required -- and report the data wirelessly to a handheld monitor. It'll be able to operate for about a year. The osteoporosis trial will deliver parathyroid hormone to the spine, to help grow new bone. In both trials, the MicroCHIPS device will be implanted in an outpatient procedure, using local anesthetic. Eventually, Santini says, the company hopes to test devices that combine sensing capability with the ability to deliver doses of a drug, but for now those functions are separate.

The new funding round coalesced last fall because investors were pleased with MicroCHIPS' "good pre-clinical results on both programs," Santini says.

January will be a big travel month for Santini: he's off to the big J.P. Morgan healthcare schmoozefest in San Francisco next week, and then off to the World Economic Forum in Davos later in the month, where he's being recognized as one of the forum's "Technology Pioneers."

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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