Qualcomm Strikes Deal With China’s Largest Cell Phone Maker, Volcano Moves to Buy Axsun, Life Technologies Buys Visigen, & More San Diego BizTech News

1/5/09Follow @bvbigelow

Innovation never sleeps, but the pace of San Diego business and technology news yawned a little over the Christmas and New Year holidays. Still, there were plenty of noteworthy developments to round up for the first Monday of 2009. Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year!The end of December brought news from faraway China that the world’s largest telecom market is starting a long-delayed upgrade to 3G, or third-generation, wireless technologies. That could be good news for San Diego’s Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), which said it signed a licensing agreement with China’s largest cell phone maker, Beijing Tianyu Communications Equipment Co.

Was anyone surprised when Dow Jones VentureSource announced that liquidity events for venture-backed companies fell to their lowest level in five years in 2008? The data shows that only seven venture-backed companies in the entire country completed IPOs, raising a total of $551 million. San Diego’s CardioNet, which raised $54 million in March, was the region’s sole IPO of the year. And for all of Southern California, the data show only 27 buyouts, generating a total of $919 million.

San Diego venture capitalist Kevin Kinsella became “The Big Man in Town,” and left the rest of us feeling like a “Rag Doll,” after becoming a major financial backer of Jersey Boys, the smash Broadway hit. Our account of how it all happened is here.

San Diego’s Volcano (NASDAQ: VOLC), which makes vision systems for detecting artery blockages and other problems, says it plans to buy Axun, a privately held laser maker in the Boston area, for $21.5 million.

Christmas came a little early for San Diego’s CalciMedica, which got a $4 million installment of a Series C round of venture funding that could total $12 million if certain milestones are met. The $4 million came from Sanderling Ventures; Biogen Idec New Ventures and SR One, the corporate venture arm of GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) promised the additional $8 million. [[Editor's note: An earlier version of this item erroneously said that CalciMedica had collected the full $12 million. We apologize for the error.]]

Calcimedica was founded in 2006 to develop small molecule drugs for the treatment of autoimminue disorders, organ transplant rejection, and other immune diseases.

Life Technologies, the Carlsbad, CA-based maker of biotech lab equipment, paid about $20 million to buy VisiGen, a Houston startup working on a new, low-cost process to sequence individual genomes.

International Stem Cell, an Oceanside life sciences company that supplies stem cells for biotech research, says it received the first $1 million in a private placement deal that’s expected to yield up to $5 million over the next several months. The company says the financing is in the form of a new class of convertible preferred stock.

San Diego’s Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE) announced it has completed the company’s first solar energy project, a 10-megawatt photovoltaic facility about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas, NV.

Big drug companies are thinking a lot these days about finding new ways to innovate in the drug discovery business. Peter Pallai explained how he started San Diego-based BioBlocks as a chemistry outsourcing service for big Pharma. Meanwhile, Rodney Lappe of CovX, a San Diego biotech acquired by Pfizer, desribed the alternative approach to drug development within Pfizer’s Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Center, of which it is now a part.

As part of a restructuring that NextWave Wireless announced earlier this year, the company said it sold a 75 percent stake in its IP Wireless subsidiary to an entity formed by certain management personnel for $1 million, and reimbursement of transaction expenses.

And Finally, TheSportsTV.com, a San Diego startup that provides a web-hosted video site for amateur athletes, recruiters, and scouts, got $20,000 in funding from the San Diego Venture Group. The startup won the group’s annual “PitchFest” business plan competition.

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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