Calibra’s diabetes device aims to meet $35M challenge

Dow Jones VentureWire

Calibra’s diabetes device aims to meet $35M challenge

Calibra Medical Inc., formerly known as Seattle Medical Technologies Inc., has raised a $35 million Series B to launch a device designed to make insulin therapy easier and more discreet.

New investor Canaan Partners led the round and was joined by new backers Intersouth Partners and Skyline Ventures, and by return investors Frazier Healthcare Ventures and Three Arch Partners. The company, which moved from Seattle to Redwood City, Calif., late last year, has raised a total of $46 million since forming, as Seattle Medical, in 2004. This round closed in the spring. Calibra’s valuation is undisclosed.

Calibra this fall intends to begin testing its drug-delivery device in clinical trials and to secure 510(k) clearance by year-end or early in 2009. The device, which it plans to begin selling next year, is made to combine the benefits of syringes and pumps diabetes patients use to take insulin.

Syringes are simple to use, but patients find it difficult to inject themselves discreetly in public. Wearable insulin pumps are less conspicuous, but they’re also more complicated and expensive. Calibra’s product is a small, wearable device that patients operate by squeezing buttons through their clothes. When they do so, the device mechanically administers insulin. Unlike pumps, it has no electronics, said Chief Executive Jeffrey L. Purvin.

Since it is worn, patients don’t have to remember to pack it with them when they go out. It will also be less expensive and will require less training than insulin pumps, said Purvin, former CEO of Metrika Inc., a provider of single-use diabetes-monitoring devices that merged with Bayer HealthCare LLC in 2006.

“There’s no software that can go south on you, or batteries that aren’t quite right — we refer to it as an insulin pen that you wear,” Purvin said. “With our device, nobody ever sees anything, it looks like you’re fiddling with your clothing. What you’re really doing is giving yourself insulin.”

There are many potential uses for the device, but one would be to make it easier for Type 2 diabetes patients to take short-acting insulin to control glucose spikes that occur after meals. Most of these patients who take insulin have little trouble with the once- or twice-daily shots of long-acting insulin, but they do want a better way to get their fast-acting, post-meal insulin, Purvin said.

The device won’t replace insulin pumps for Type 1 patients who qualify for them, are well-trained, and have no trouble paying the upfront and recurring costs, which can total thousands of dollars. Many Type 1 patients don’t meet all the criteria for today’s pumps, however, creating opportunity for Calibra. Some Type 1 patients might also start out using Calibra’s product to see if they can get accustomed to wearing a device before starting insulin-pump therapy.

Calibra expects that its device therapy would cost about $150 to $180 per month. With an insulin pump, the disposable costs alone can total that much. And through an insurance co-pay, many patients also end up footing about $1,000 of the roughly $5,000 upfront cost of an insulin pump.

By early next year, Calibra intends to build a sales team to market its technology, Purvin said. The device also could be used to administer other drugs, Purvin said.

Canaan General Partner Wende Hutton and Skyline Managing Director Stephen J. Sullivan have joined the Calibra board. Intersouth General Partner Garheng Kong has joined as a board observer. Three Arch Partner Richard Lin and Frazier General Partner Nathan Every are also on the board of Calibra, which has 20 employees. Co-founder Clifton Alferness is also on the board.

Calibra does not have a Web site. Reach the company at 650-298-4700.