Xconomy San Diego Hosts its Premiere Event, A Regional Algae Initiative Blooms, Mpex Pharmaceuticals Raises $27.5M, La Jolla Pharmaceuticals Fails Key Trial, & More San Diego BizTech News

2/17/09Follow @bvbigelow

The highlight last week for Xconomy San Diego was our premiere event, “Physics for Future Presidents,” which drew a big turnout (about 200 people registered), including at least two Ph.D. physicists—Lowell Burnett of Quasar Federal Systems and J. Robert Beyster, the founder and retired chairman and CEO of defense contractor SAIC. Yet it also was an eventful week in San Diego for the life sciences, cleantech, software, and information technology sectors.

—As an equal-opportunity “Debunker in Chief,” UC Berkeley Physics professor Richard Muller separated science from mythology in his talk, “Physics for Future Presidents,” which touched on nuclear terrorism, energy, and global warming.

—San Diego Internet entrepreneur Lee Stein, who helped to pioneer online payment systems, travels in rarefied circles, which include PayPal founder Elon Musk, Ariana Huffington of the Huffington Post, and Segway inventor (and Boston Xconomist) Dean Kamen. His latest project is Prize Capital, a Del Mar, CA, investment firm he founded to help support the development of breakthrough green technologies.

—San Diego’s Mpex Pharmaceuticals says its $27.5 million in venture funding will carry the life sciences startup through Phase 2 clinical trials of its inhaled version of approved antibiotic levofloxacin for treating certain lung infections.

The San Diego “regional algae initiative” has formed a virtual network to encourage the growth of all companies algal. Project manager Rick Halperin told me San Diego’s experience in aquaculture, expertise in algae biology, and sunny climate gives the region an early advantage in developing a new algae industry cluster here.

—San Diego’s Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARNA), which has run up an accumulated deficit of $656 million, is approaching the moment of truth in experimental trials of its new weight-loss drug.

—After reporting the failure of its lead drug candidate, Riquent, in a clinical trial, the big question facing La Jolla Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: LJPC) is whether the biotech will cease operations. The Riquent news wiped out more than 90 percent of the San Diego-based biotech’s stock market value, although the company could possibly resurrect another drug candidate that was shelved to conserve cash.

—Mobile TV is expected to become a $50 billion global market by 2013, with as many as 500 million people tuning in to watch television programming on mobile devices. But a study released by ABI Research of New York indicates the U.S. market won’t be part of any mobile TV boom because of confusion and uncertainty. That could be bad news for Qualcomm’s MediaFlo technology.

—A new drug called degarelix, developed to treat prostate cancer, is expected to enter the U.S. market by the end of next month. The peptide is the first “new chemical entity” discovered in San Diego by the Ferring Research Institute, a research center established by Switerland’s Ferring Pharmaceuticals.

—San Diego government contractor SAIC (NYSE: SAI) says its Benham Companies subsidiary is now qualified to bid on Energy Savings Performance Contract projects. With the Department of Energy’s approval of all contract options over the next seven years, Benham will be allowed to seek as much as $5 billion in such projects.

—Semiconductor industry bellwether Cymer says it expects orders for its specialized lasers, which are used to create microcircuitry patterns in silicon wafers, to continue to decline through March. The San Diego-based company (NASDAQ: CYMI) supplies 65 percent of the laser equipment used worldwide to make integrated circuits.

—San Diego software security company Websense (NASDAQ: WBSN) has acquired four companies since former McAfee executive Gene Hodges was named CEO, expanding the scope of its capabilities to identify and block computer viruses and malicious software code. The most recent acquisition was less than three two weeks ago.

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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