Qualcomm’s MediaFLO Depends on DTV Switchover, Carl Icahn Raises Stakes for Amylin, Slacker Gets $5M, & More San Diego BizTech News

2/2/09Follow @bvbigelow

With patents counted, investments disclosed, and financial results reported, San Diego wireless giant Qualcomm seemed to dominate the Xconomy news last week. There were plenty of other developments, though, in life sciences, robotics, and other sectors of the innovation economy. Read on!

—By necessity, a few interesting nuggets got left out when we compiled our list of the top 25 patent winners in the San Diego region in 2008. San Diego’s Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), of course, ranked No. 1, with 283 patents issued. One interesting nugget we noticed later is that rival Broadcom (NASDAQ: BCRM), which is based in Orange County, (and therefore wasn’t on the list for this region) obtained twice as many patents, and ranks No. 25 in the world, with 643 patents issued. Information on the global top 35 is here. See our San Diego list here.

—Modu, a modular mobile phone maker based in Kfar-Saba, Israel, got $7 million in venture funding, according to a report in Calcalist, an Israeli daily newspaper. A U.S. spokesman for modu had no information on the deal, and Qualcomm later declined to comment.

—One of our most widely read stories last week was based on the responses we got from San Diego biotech leaders after New York-based Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) announced its $68 billion deal to acquire Madison, NJ-based Wyeth (NYSE: WYE). Among other things, they said it could slow down or stall buyouts of smaller biotechs by Wyeth and Pfizer. Read the full responses here.

—The global market for paid search marketing on the Internet has soared from about $500 million in 2001 to an estimated $20 billion this year. That likely explains why San Diego-based Covario, which provides analytical software and services to help customers optimize their search engine marketing, has been thriving. Coincidentally, Covario is holding its annual invitation-only conference on interactive marketing and digital advertising this week in La Jolla.

—San Diego security software developer Websense (NASDAQ: WBSN) acquired Defensio, which offers a spam filtering Web service. Websense wasted no time integrating Defensio’s software into its own ThreatSeeker Network.

—Biocom chief executive Joe Panetta laid out his agenda for lobbying on behalf of San Diego’s life sciences industry. Panetta told Luke he is planning to make at least one trip a month to Washington this year.

—A critical test phase is drawing near for the Fire Scout, a robotic helicopter under development in San Diego by Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC). The Navy plans a final round of operational tests this year for the “Vertical Unmanned Aerial System,” which is intended to provide “situational awareness” for a Naval battle group.

—The 11th-hour flap over the Feb. 17th deadline that requires U.S. TV stations to turn off their analog broadcast equipment and switch to all-digital broadcasting may seem far-removed to many people. But efforts to delay the change to June 12 created a crucial issue for San Diego’s Qualcomm. The wireless giant has spent hundreds of millions of dollars gearing up to use the 700 MHz spectrum being vacated by analog TV broadcasters for its MediaFLO TV service for mobile phones, which is set to launch in 80 markets on Feb. 18th. The House voted last week against the delay, which was good news for Qualcomm. But CEO Paul Jacobs suggested the measure isn’t dead.

—Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM), the San Diego medical diagnostics company, reported that its new technique that tests for Down syndrome was almost 100 percent accurate in a recent study.

—Billionaire investor Carl Icahn increased his stake in San Diego’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals to 8 percent from about 7.3 percent. Icahn disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that he intends to nominate five new directors to Amylin’s board, apparently to push for a sale of the company.

—San Diego’s Slacker, which provides customized music online and for wireless devices, has raised $5 million in bridge financing. The startup did not discuss the deal, which increases its total venture funding to $58.5 million since the company’s founding in 2004.

—The San Diego Venture Group invited three out-of-town venture capital partners to provide their outlook on the industry in 2009. With only six IPOs in 2008, chairman Dixon Doll of the National Venture Capital Association called for overhauling the venture industry. Among the changes Doll outlined is a proposal to promote new investment vehicles that provide a late-stage alternative to IPOs by matching a company’s VC investors with buyers in private stock placements. The industry group is expected to unveil its proposals in coming weeks.

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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